Smartphone screens may soon be made of wood

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Researchers are exploring the potential of transparent wood as an alternative to glass and plastic for smartphone screens and other applications. Scientists from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and the University of Maryland have been working on this innovative material for several years and believe it has a promising future.

The process of making wood transparent involves modifying or removing a substance called lignin. Lignin acts as a glue to hold the cells that transport water and nutrients together, giving wood its characteristic brown color. By removing or bleaching the lignin and filling it with epoxy resin, the researchers were able to create transparent wood.

The transparency of the wood varies depending on its thickness. Millimeter-thick sheets allow 80% to 90% of light to pass through, but as the sheet becomes thicker, the light transmittance decreases. Furthermore, tests showed that transparent wood is three times stronger than Plexiglass and 10 times stronger than glass.

Due to its slim profile, transparent wood is considered a potential alternative to glass and plastic for display screens. It could also be used as a replacement for glass in windows, although the transparency would be similar to frosted glass. Additionally, transparent wood has the ability to mimic smart windows that can switch from transparent to tinted.

While transparent wood is not yet as environmentally friendly as glass, as the epoxy resin used is petroleum-derived, the research groups are actively working on finding more sustainable alternatives. These include using hydrogen peroxide with UV radiation and a bio-based polymer made from citrus peels.

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