A study completed by engineers at the University of Maryland (UMD) found that transparent wood windows not only provide nearly as much light as glass, but also reduces the amount of heat transmitted into a space.
The team at UMD performed some of its tests on a model tiny house in which they replaced a panel in the ceiling with the transparent wood. Tian Li, the lead author of the study, was quoted by Science Daily as saying the team found "that the channels in the wood transmit light with wavelengths around the range of the wavelengths of visible light, but [it] blocks the wavelengths that carry mostly heat."
Science Daily further details the transparent wood's characteristics that make it helpful in dispersing light:
The channels in the wood direct visible light straight through the material, but the cell structure that still remains bounces the light around just a little bit, a property called haze. This means the light does not shine directly into your eyes, making it more comfortable to look at. The team photographed the transparent wood's cell structure in the University of Maryland's Advanced Imaging and Microscopy (AIM) Lab.
Transparent wood still has all the cell structures that comprised the original piece of wood. The wood is cut against the grain, so that the channels that drew water and nutrients up from the roots lie along the shortest dimension of the window. The new transparent wood uses theses natural channels in wood to guide the sunlight through the wood.
The transparent wood is a renewable building material and is made by bleaching the wood's lignin, the substance that makes wood brown, then soaking the wood in epoxy to make it clearer and stronger.
Working with transparent wood is similar to working with natural wood, the researchers said. However, their transparent wood is waterproof due to its polymer component. It also is much less breakable than glass because the cell structure inside resists shattering.