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Transparent wood could soon replace plastics

Date: 21.10.2022 

Transparent wood promises to be an environmentally friendly substitute for glass or plastic used for making car windshields, see-through packaging and biomedical devices, according to a study.

Kredit: Anish M. Chathoth.Published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, the study said transparent wood reduced ecological impacts on the environment because of its renewable and biodegradable properties. It is also said to be cost-efficient as it is five times more efficient than glass thus cutting energy cost significantly.

The world currently produces around 400 million tons of plastic waste each year, with increasing levels of single-use plastic which is used and then discarded, according to the UN Environment Program. Now, transparent wood is emerging as one of the most promising substitute materials of the future.

"Transparent wood as a material can replace the environmentally harmful petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, polyethylene, etc.," said Prodyut Dhar, an author of the study and assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology's biochemical engineering school.

Originally fabricated in 1992 by German scientist Siegfried Fink and since improved upon by other researchers, transparent wood is made by removing the lignin content in wood and replacing it with transparent, plastic materials. Lignin is a naturally occurring biopolymer which supports plant tissue; unlike plastics it can biodegrade and is non-toxic.

The end-of-life analysis suggests that, transparent wood is less environmentally friendly than glass but is still better than producing polyethylene, indicating the need to improve the production technology, the authors said.

Image source: Anish M. Chathoth.





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