Researchers at the University of Maryland were able pull away color and chemicals from a block of wood to leave it impressively see-through. The result is a material that is both stronger and more insulating than glass, with better biodegradability than plastic. "We were very surprised by how transparent it could go," said Liangbing Hu, who wrote about the project in Advanced Materials.
Hu's team isn't the only group that's developed a technique for transparent wood -- Swedish researchers have also been able to clear out that pesky visible pulp, replacing it with a transparent polymer. The treatment techniques appear pretty similar: it's a two-stage process.
The researchers first boiled the wood in water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals for roughly two hours. This flushes out lignin, the molecule responsible for giving wood its color. The team then poured epoxy over the block which makes the wood four to five times stronger, although it makes it all a little less environmentally-friendly in the process.