One of the world’s oldest building materials may soon be getting a makeover. Wood is celebrated for being a good insulator, durable, and renewable, but despite its best qualities it’s still opaque, and we need natural light—not only for our sanity but also to decrease our use of artificial light. Glass, however, is a really bad insulator and not energy-efficient. Looking for an alternative to drafty windows, a team of researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have developed a process of chemically treating wood to make it both transparent and capable of storing and releasing heat.
“We prepared a material that is multifunctional—it can transmit light very well and also it can store heat. We combined these two functions in a single material,” expained Céline Montanari, one of the researchers on the project, when she presented their work at the American Chemical Society last month.
Since one-third of the world’s energy consumption currently comes from the building sector—and largely due to our heating, cooling, and lighting systems—the material is being touted as a potential game-changer for energy-efficient construction.