Premium Smartphones have been made from glass for quite a few years now, but new research suggests that a transparent material made out of wood might replace glass screens on smartphones as well as other devices.

The project was lead by Researcher Junyong Zhu in collaboration with the University of Maryland and Colorado and it was published on the US Department of Agriculture’s website.


The researchers extracted wood from the Balsa tree, which is a flowering tree that grows faster than others and can reach a height of 30m. The wood taken from the tree went through an oxidization bath at room temperature and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) was imbued in it to make it virtually transparent like glass.


This transparent wood is fives times more thermally efficient, durable, and lighter than glass. Combining natural cellulose with the PVA polymer will also make it bendable. Additionally, unlike glass that shatters, this material splinters when broken, meaning that it will split into tiny splinter shaped pieces when damaged.


Producing this material is far more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, as glass costs more, uses more energy, and has a heavy carbon footprint with emissions of up to 25,000 metric tonnes annually. Hence, producing transparent wood will be more sustainable and less harmful to the environment.

The researchers have said that this material is already compatible with industrial equipment, meaning that mass production is not far away. We may also see the technology debut on automobiles and eventually on smartphones in the future.