Scientists Make Transparent Wood Stronger than Glass

July 13, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. transparent / trænsˈpɛər ənt / (adj.) – can be seen through
Example: We have containers that are transparent.

2. retain rɪˈteɪn / (v.) – to keep or maintain something
Example: The plant retained certain features despite being treated with chemicals.  

3. shuttle / ˈʃʌt l / (v.) – to move something back and forth
Example: The machine shuttles items across the office.

4. ideal / aɪˈdi əl / (adj.) – describes something that is appropriate or suitable for something
Example: The wood will be ideal for furniture since it is very strong.

5. solar / ˈsoʊ lər / (adj.) – relating to the sun
Example: My car runs on solar power.


Read the text below.
Scientists have succeeded in making transparent wood stronger than glass by adding epoxy.

Previously, Swedish researchers made wood transparent by boiling it in water, sodium hydroxide, and other chemicals for two hours to remove lignin, which gives wood its color. But with the removal of lignin, some of the wood’s resiliency is lost, so polymer is added for it to regain its durability.

Scientists from the University of Maryland took it a step further by covering a transparent wood block in epoxy, a chemical commonly used for making adhesives. This made the wood at least four times stronger than traditional glass. It also made it a better insulator and more biodegradable than plastic.

Even though the treatment has stripped away some of the wood’s qualities, a unique feature that it had from its time as a tree was retained in the transparent wood. The small tubes that used to carry water to the tree’s trunk and branches were preserved in the transparent wood, but they serve a new purpose. From shuttling water for the tree, these tubes now allow the passage of light, which opens up more possibilities in terms of using the wood.

The transparent wood’s light-scattering property allows it to be used in constructing a privacy window that lets only those inside to see those outside. The wood will also be ideal for creating solar panels since it carries light. Other possible uses for transparent wood include transparent furniture, high-tech optical lab equipment, and stronger windows. The scientists are hopeful that more uses of transparent wood will arise once they figure out how to make larger blocks, as the sample they produced measured only 5 by 5 inches.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What are other possible applications of transparent wood?
·         Aside from making it transparent, what other qualities would you like to see in wood?

Discussion B

·         Do you think scientists should always look for “better” materials to replace existing ones? Why or why not?
·         What do you think are some everyday items that should not be replaced/changed? Why?

July 13, 2016