September 21, 2023

Transparent Timber Composite — Is it the Future?

Written by Fay Mircio

What is Transparent Timber?


All wood derives its mechanical performance from cellulose structures, and colour from its lignin polymers.  

In the early 90's, scientists studying these very properties discovered that a transparent timber cellulose composite could be engineered as an alternative to synthetic materials by reducing and modifying the usual lignin content levels.

After achieving a white to almost entirely transparent colouration through what is now called the ‘delignification process’, transparent timber immediately displayed favourable structural properties such as low density, heat shielding and load bearing functionalities, proving its potential as the next ecofriendly, affordable source material to successfully replace plastic and cement in building applications.



Transparent Timber Composites in Smart Buildings 


While still in its prototype stage, transparent timber composites could soon play an essential part in smart buildings and passive designs, as their innate properties would address both structural and performance needs.

As more transparent timber composite applications are tested, engineers have already outlined advantageous uses of transparent timber in architecture.

When testing transparent timber in window glazing, scientists registered lower temperature increases compared to the average glass window, meaning that transparent timber could be introducing an entirely new type of energy saving window that optimises both light transmittance and thermal efficiency.
This favourable property would also aid in replacing artificial light sources with natural light, as window panels made of transparent timber display a lower thermal transmission, better impact resistance and lower density.

Additionally, engineers have documented a high impact toughness in transparent timber composites, as they do not shatter as easily as glass, thus proving to be also suitable for applications where impact properties are essential to the design, such as railings, balconies and balustrades.

While more research is needed for transparent timber to successfully reach its full construction potential, this new material already heralds an exciting future for design and architecture. 


Contact us today to visit our Atelier Timber Showroom