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Transparent Wood

Make your own super strong, and super transparent wood! Easy and cheap at your house!

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Make strong and CLEAR composite materials with natural wood! Get all the strength of wood without all that darn opacity getting in your way! I figured out a quick and simple recipe with some cheap ingredients you can do right at home! Build wooden windows, or clear, wood cell-phone cases!


Recipe

This recipe is a modified basic version of comes from a paper by Zhu et al-

Highly Anisotropic, Highly Transparent Wood Composites
Mingwei Zhu, Jianwei Song, Tian Li, Amy Gong, Yanbin Wang, Jiaqi Dai, Yonggang Yao, Wei Luo, Doug Henderson, and Liangbing Hu*

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.20... or Sci-Hub to get more Open Access: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.sci-hub.cc/doi/10.1...


Basic Recipe

  1. Make a bath from 1 liter water, 100 grams of NaOH, 50 grams of Na2SO3.
  2. Put in wood and heat at a low temparature for 10 hours
  3. Drain bath, rinse wood with water
  4. Create new bath from 1 bottle of H2O2 and heat for 2 hours
  5. Rinse and preserve in Rubbing Alcohol
  6. Take wood from alcohol and place in epoxy
  7. Vacuum the epoxy through the wood 3 times over 30 minutes
  8. Let cure


Full Recipe

From their paper, here is their full recipe-

"Materials and Chemicals: Basswood from Walnut Hollow Company

was used in this study. The chemicals used in removing lignin contents

from wood were sodium hydroxide (>98%, Sigma-Aldrich), sodium sulphite (>98%, Sigma-Aldrich), and hydrogen peroxide (30% solution, EMD Millipore Corporation). The polymer used for infiltration was

epoxy resin (#300 resin and #21 nonblushing cycloaliphatic hardener,

AeroMarine Products, Inc.). The solvents used were ethanol alcohol

(190 proof, Pharmco-Aaper) and deionized (DI) water.

Lignin Removal from Wood: The lignin removal solution was prepared

by dissolving NaOH (2.5 mol L−1

The wood slices were immersed in the lignin removal solution and kept

boiling for 12 h, followed by rinsing in hot distilled water three times to

remove most of the chemicals. The wood blocks were then placed in

the bleaching solution (H2O2, 2.5 mol L−1

without stirring. When the yellow color of the sample disappeared, the

samples were removed and rinsed with cold water. The lignin-removed

samples were preserved in ethanol.

Polymer Infiltration: Epoxy resin was prepared by mixing the two liquid

components (#300 resin and #21 nonblushing cycloaliphatic hardener)

at a ratio of 2 to 1. Then the lignin-removed wood was placed at the

bottom of a dish and immersed in the liquid resin. The solution was

then degased under 200 Pa to remove the gas and ethanol solvent in

wood. Approximately 5 min later, the vacuum was released to let the

resin filling into wood structure by atmosphere pressure. The process

was repeated for three times. All the above processes were finished

within 30 min to avoid the polymer solidification. Finally, the dish

containing the wood sample and resin was kept static at 30 °C for 12 h.

The resin-infiltrated wood sample was peeled off from the dish after the

resin was completely solidified.

) and Na2SO3 (0.4 mol L−1)"

  • 1
    Step 1

    Make strong and CLEAR composite materials with natural wood! Get all the strength of wood without all that darn opacity getting in your way! I figured out a quick and simple recipe with some cheap ingredients you can do right at home! Build wooden windows, or clear, wood cell-phone cases!

    This video gives a quick overview of the whole thing, and shows some examples of the material in motion!

    Theory

    This is based off the paper by Zhu et al, called "Highly Anisotropic, Highly Transparent Wood Composites" http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.sci-hub.cc/doi/10.1...

    The basic idea is that wood can be thought of as two parts:

    Cellulose: Strong structural strings which are naturally clear

    and

    Lignin: a sort of opaque glue that holds all those strong cellulose fibers together

    If you can strip away the opaque (and non-structural) parts of the wood (the lignin) and replace it with clear epoxy, then you will have all the strength of the Cellulose fibers, but also be able to see through it!

    In this way, you are making a composite material, much like fiberglass! One of the extra cool things about this, though, is that you are able to retain the existing structures formed by the way the wood grew, to theoretically make it extra strong and lightweight!

    Why This?

    I saw lots of articles discussing this clever idea when this scientific paper first came out, and I wanted to see how do-able it would be as a simple process people can do at home. Turns out even with my basic, modified recipe, you can get some great results!

    It's a pretty simple recipe that would be a fun experiment to do with kids to share ideas about chemicals and materials properties of wood. It can also as part of a design process

    Note: This involves using some caustic chemicals. This is a first for me, so it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I came through unscathed, and you can too! just use safety glasses and gloves!

  • 2
    Step 2

    Materials

    • Thin pieces of wood (mine ranged fro .75mm-3mm - thicker takes more dissolving time)
    • Large pyrex container (chemicals won't corrode it or react with it) (I used a glass brownie pan)
    • Small scale (for weighing chemicals)
    • Hot Plate
    • Mixing Cups
    • Popsicle Sticks
    • Safety Glasses
    • Safety Gloves
    • Smock / Chemical Resistant Apron

    Chemicals

    • Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) ($14)

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013KMNCJU/ref=o...

    • Sodium Sulfite (Na2SO3) ($6)

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IABL43S/ref=o...

    • Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) ($18)

    The official recipe in the calls for about 8% H2O2, which you can make from 35% H2O2

    available here: https://www.amazon.com/Hydrogen-Peroxide-Filled-Dr...

    or I just used a whole bottle of regular cheap 3% H2O2 that you can get at the grocery store! It didn't bleach it that much, but it got it pretty transparent.

    • Rubbing Alchohol ($2) (buy it at any store)

    Epoxy

    Aeromarine 300/21 -The official type they used in the paper:https://www.amazon.com/AeroMarine-300-Epoxy-Resin-... ($63)

    Smooth-on (similar kind) (20$) https://www.amazon.com/Smooth--Smooth-Cast-Liquid-...

    Table-top (kinda flexible) ($43)https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V2GKMWW/ref=o...

    Recipe

    This recipe is a modified basic version of comes from a paper by Zhu et al-

    Highly Anisotropic, Highly Transparent Wood Composites
    Mingwei Zhu, Jianwei Song, Tian Li, Amy Gong, Yanbin Wang, Jiaqi Dai, Yonggang Yao, Wei Luo, Doug Henderson, and Liangbing Hu*

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.20... or Sci-Hub to get more Open Access: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.sci-hub.cc/doi/10.1...


    Basic Recipe

    1. Make a bath from 1 liter water, 100 grams of NaOH, 50 grams of Na2SO3.
    2. Put in wood and heat at a low temparature for 10 hours
    3. Drain bath, rinse wood with water
    4. Create new bath from 1 bottle of H2O2 and heat for 2 hours
    5. Rinse and preserve in Rubbing Alcohol
    6. Take wood from alcohol and place in epoxy
    7. Vacuum the epoxy through the wood 3 times over 30 minutes
    8. Let cure


    Full Recipe

    From their paper, here is their full recipe-

    "Materials and Chemicals: Basswood from Walnut Hollow Company

    was used in this study. The chemicals used in removing lignin contents

    from wood were sodium hydroxide (>98%, Sigma-Aldrich), sodium sulphite (>98%, Sigma-Aldrich), and hydrogen peroxide (30% solution, EMD Millipore Corporation). The polymer used for infiltration was

    epoxy resin (#300 resin and #21 nonblushing cycloaliphatic hardener,

    AeroMarine Products, Inc.). The solvents used were ethanol alcohol

    (190 proof, Pharmco-Aaper) and deionized (DI) water.

    Lignin Removal from Wood: The lignin removal solution was prepared

    by dissolving NaOH (2.5 mol L−1

    The wood slices were immersed in the lignin removal solution and kept

    boiling for 12 h, followed by rinsing in hot distilled water three times to

    remove most of the chemicals. The wood blocks were then placed in

    the bleaching solution (H2O2, 2.5 mol L−1

    without stirring. When the yellow color of the sample disappeared, the

    samples were removed and rinsed with cold water. The lignin-removed

    samples were preserved in ethanol.

    Polymer Infiltration: Epoxy resin was prepared by mixing the two liquid

    components (#300 resin and #21 nonblushing cycloaliphatic hardener)

    at a ratio of 2 to 1. Then the lignin-removed wood was placed at the

    bottom of a dish and immersed in the liquid resin. The solution was

    then degased under 200 Pa to remove the gas and ethanol solvent in

    wood. Approximately 5 min later, the vacuum was released to let the

    resin filling into wood structure by atmosphere pressure. The process

    was repeated for three times. All the above processes were finished

    within 30 min to avoid the polymer solidification. Finally, the dish

    containing the wood sample and resin was kept static at 30 °C for 12 h.

    The resin-infiltrated wood sample was peeled off from the dish after the

    resin was completely solidified.

    ) and Na2SO3 (0.4 mol L−1)"

  • 3
    Step 3

    First, fill a bath with 1 liter of water. Remember to use a chemical-resistant container that you can heat up (like a nice pyrex glass).

    Put the container on your heat source (like the hot-plate). Rig up a ventilation system (there aren't really many fumes, I was just worried there might be, but it is nice to turn on a fan).

    Get all your safety glasses and gloves on (these are like the burny chemicals that they scar their hands with in "Fight Club".)

    Measure out 100 grams of Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH - Lye). Be careful to not drip water into the powdered chemical.

    Slowly pour the chemical into the bath while stirring to prevent the lye from clumping up.

    After it has all dissolved clear, measure out 50 grams of the Na2SO3. Again, slowly pour into the liquid while stirring.

    Gently set your wood into the bath. Don't fill it up too much as the liquid will evaporate, and wood that dries out will start curling in an annoying way.

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StéphaneAG wrote 07/15/2016 at 12:50 point

also, thinking about the epoxy filling the wood's "tube structures", I was wondering if we could "grow" fiber optics* in those ?

( nb: I can't get my hands on a post about a underwater living thing that has a very long thread going up that could be used as optic fiber , sorry :/ )

* or any other more transparent stuff that I don't know about ;)

  Are you sure? yes | no

StéphaneAG wrote 07/15/2016 at 12:34 point
Hi there :) First of all: Nice work ! I didn't stop by enough on the latests HaD posts on the subject, and it's cool to see you got something going on ( & well ) on your side ;) I was wondering ( reason of this comment ) if it 'd be possible to build transparent skateboards using your method ? Also, if so, I wonder if it 'd best to treat the different layers of wood separately or as a hole once they're stacked together ( my first thought was the former, quite logically I'd say .. ) It 'd be pretty neat to have such a board, & I'd LOVE to see a HaD logo on both sides of the middle layer ( so that we could see it not being ripped off from above the board* or from below ;P ) *if we used "transparent grip" ( nb: not yet digged for ;) ) - or just glue some grip's rips off I'll see if my contact can find me some unstacked layers of wood they use for boards ( if needed ) & also plan on buying the necessary stuff to make all that happen :D This being said, keep up the good work :D +

  Are you sure? yes | no

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