Transparent wood can become an environmentally friendly replacement for polyethylene

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have found a biodegradable replacement for polyethylene: it is a transparent wood, which, while not inferior to its counterpart in strength, is significantly superior to it environmentally.

It will be possible to make anything from such material, from transparent packaging to medical instruments.

Every year, humanity throws out up to 400 million tons of plastic, and an increasing part of it is disposable packaging and utensils.

Consisting of environmentally harmful petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride, these wastes pollute the environment for years and pose a serious threat to animals and plants.

One of the many alternatives to the “classic” plastics, the German scientist Siegfried Fink developed back in 1992, and since then the technology has been constantly improved.

This is wood from which lignin (the substance that gives wood its hardness) is first removed and then replaced with transparent polymers such as epoxy resins.

The final product can be up to 90 percent transparent, and it is also an impact-resistant material that degrades faster and easier in natural conditions.

A research team led by Prodyut Dhar from the Indian Institute of Technology (India) analyzed the impact of transparent wood on the environment.

They took into account all stages of its production and disposal and came to the conclusion that removing lignin with hydrogen peroxide and replacing it with epoxy resin provides the greatest environmental friendliness of the final product.

Compared to analogues, wood treated in this way has a lesser harmful effect on the environment and its production requires half as much electricity.

The end product is inferior to glass in terms of environmental friendliness, but surpasses polyethylene, so that after the final development of the technology, the technology can be put into industrial production to replace plastic packaging.

Transparent wood can become an environmentally friendly replacement for polyethylene 2
Plain and transparent wood: although the latter is still not a complete replacement for glass, it can easily act as a plastic

The technology for producing transparent wood is still improving, so it is possible that in the near future the potentially toxic epoxy resin in its composition can be replaced with safe analogues, after which the degree of environmental friendliness of such a material will exceed that of ordinary glass.

This strong, lightweight and easily modified (through lignin-replacing substances) material is attracting more and more attention from researchers, and soon wooden housings for household appliances or wooden water pipes may become a reality.


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