Would you choose wooden windows?

The sun shining through a window

Windows have come a remarkably long way since their beginnings, and we now have an incredible choice of futuristic smart glass including:

  • Liquid crystal.
  • Electrochromic or Suspended particle device (SPD).
  • Thermochromic.

Amongst the double glazed, triple glazed, and solar panels. the latest – and perhaps most controversial, leaves us asking the rather odd question – would you choose wooden windows?

Yes – you heard correctly, wooden windows. Not just wooden frames, but actual window panes made of wood. If, like we were, you are still scratching your head at the possibility, or impossibility in most cases, let us take a closer look at the science behind it.

Why wood?

The constant research into window improvements have been concentrated mostly on energy efficiency and improving thermal insulation.  Even with the huge leaps that have been made over the years they have now discovered that rather than keep thickening, or strengthening the glass, a transparent wood acts as a much more efficient substitute for conserving energy. The method used, allows just as much light in as standard glass windows, but also adds to the ‘glass’ – a highly effective anti-glare that offers a much desired, much greater level of privacy for bathrooms or office windows.  

How does it work?

A materials scientist team, Liangbing Hu and the University of Maryland, discovered that by stripping away the molecule lignin (which gives the wood its brown colour and rigidity), they were left with a white cellulose structure. The team then spent some time experimenting with stiffeners to add transparency and rigidity back into the material. The most effective substance turned out to be the transparent polymer, epoxy, which produced a see-through material that is twice as strong as Plexiglass.

Unfortunately, epoxy doesn’t list high on the environmentally friendly list, but with more research being undertaken with alternatives, such as recyclable PVP, researchers are confident that the same results will be produced on a much more eco friendly scale.

Why is it so effective?

This new concept of transparent wood is a breeding ground for solar cells, which could have enormous impact on future heating and cooling properties. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this futuristic development is the consistency of the light dispersion.

What do we mean? Well, when sunlight streams through a glass window it changes direction, along with the movement of the sun, which leads to shifting around seating positions, closing and opening blinds and general disruption.

With the wooden glass window, the light is distributed via the haze, which not only eliminates that harshness from direct sunlight, but can cause:

The future for wooden windows

Although tests have only been produced on a very small area of wood, the signs are all pointing at a revolution in the window industry, one which is definitely worth keeping a close eye on. But don’t just take our word for it – Business Insider, who first wrote about the discovery in May 2016, are still fans. We can’t speak for everyone, but we’re really looking forward to green, shatterproof privacy windows in bathrooms that are made of wood.

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