Transparent wood is a different type of wood produced by compressing wood strips and removing lignin in the wood. The transparent wood has the same strength as that of regular wood but lighter in weight. Transparent wood properties mainly depend on the type of wood. Transparent wood has a low density than glass, high optical transmittance, low thermal conductivity, and superior toughness. It is also compatible with the existing manufacturing processes, due to which its commercialization is easier.
The global demand for wood does not seem to be subsiding as data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2018 suggests that international trade's value grew by 11% compared to 2017. This, according to the FAO, is the highest in 70 years. Even though consumption is high, stricter policies and regulations around sustainable development have shifted the consumer mindset. Researchers have finally figured out a way to use transparent wood commercially. Here, we look into the possible business scenario of transparent wood globally.
The KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in the later stages of transparent wood production, has added acrylic components, which has resulted in commercially viable options. The new transparent wood now can absorb energy, due to which it becomes translucent. As the temperature drops, the wood releases the captured energy.
To learn more about key trends >> Download Sample Report
Transparent wood has various other applications along with its primary use in construction and furniture. The ability to absorb energy has opened up new avenues for the market. It can replace steel and stone in construction due to its strength and lightweight. It cannot just be used as pillars but also weatherproof and fire resistant as well.
Researchers also claim that transparent wood can replace glass in the solar panels, transforming the already booming solar power industry. The use of transparent wood will ensure that guided sunlight transmittance allows enough light to pass, and effective thermal insulation can be achieved. Transparent wood applications can further transcend into an augmented reality where electronics' integration can develop touch-sensitive wooden dashboards.
The FAO led an initiative in 2017 called the Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World (SW4SW) with several organizations. The initiative called for the sustainable use of natural resources, including forests. The whole approach is to create a cyclical ecosystem for the consumption of wood. This initiative is in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda by the United Nations General Assembly.
This has led to a consumer behavior shift in the demand for sustainable wood products. Wood is a renewable and sustainable source that is viewed as a way to decrease carbon footprint and stop CO2 emissions. Danish Technological Institute in Jan 2019 claimed that if the load-bearing structure is switched to wood, there is a potential of 50% reduction in CO2 emissions. Almost the whole world is expected to pursue carbon credits, and sustainable wood is expected to play a key role.
Companies such as IKEA are also devising sustainability strategies and focusing on sourcing 100% of wood, paper, and cardboard from sustainable sources, mainly the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests, ensuring that products come from responsibly managed forests. In short, transparent wood can become an example as sustainability is expected to increase the demand for sustainable wood that will create innovation in the industry.
It is expected that the post-COVID-19 situation for wood production and consumption will remain stagnant. However, companies are expected to focus on the production of engineered wood products. The passing of the Farm Bill and the Timber Innovation Act in 2018 is expected to generate investment. Wood based construction is the latest technology that is beginning to gain popularity, especially in the U.S. and Canada. Engineered wood is a type of manufactured wood made by tweaking some of its properties.
North American is expected to be the biggest market for transparent wood, followed by Europe. Rising construction activities, abundant wood supply, the artistic appearance of wood, and its environmentally sound qualities make wood demand in the U.S. and Canada. Renovation and rework activities, especially in the residential segment, are bound to make transparent wood a popular choice.
To understand geography trends >> Download Sample Report
Europe is at the forefront of innovation, is expected to be the first adopters of transparent wood. Renewable energy demand and sustainability are key in terms of the transparent wood market. Moreover, the potential of transparent wood in the automobile sector is expected to light up the demand. Europe is slowly moving away from conventional timber and substituting non-tropical timber alternatives. Consumers with a growing awareness of the environment will require plastic alternatives, where transparent wood can be useful.
Japan is a developed economy with traditional values emphasizing more preference towards the wood and is expected to be one of the market's top consumers. Japanese heavily use wood in the construction. There is still a sizeable population that uses timber and imported laminated lumber for construction. Japanese have a strong affination towards energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness, which the transparent wood provides.
Chinese researchers are also developing newer and environment-friendly versions of transparent wood. The overall wood consumption in China has grown tremendously in the past decade. According to the China Association of Forest Products Industry, China's total wood consumption has increased by 173% in the past ten years. It is expected that once China makes sure that the product is scalable, it will focus on developing greenhouses with transparent wood.
As far as India is concerned, the wood industry is in a transition phase. The industry is getting organized with companies such as IKEA are trying to put their stronghold in the region. India being a net wood panel importer, indeed creates a case for transparent wood. With a growing population of close to 1.3 billion and rising disposable income, consumer preference towards wood-based products, Indian demand for transparent wood will impact the market.
Research for commercializing is still in the process where KTH Royal Institute of Technology is at the forefront. Companies such as Cellutech AB and Nomaco Inc have taken an interest in developing the transparent wood market.