About This Project
Transparent wood (TW) is a lightweight, energy-efficient material engendering optical functionalities in natural hardwoods. A scalable method of TW involves the photocatalytic depolymerization of lignin on chromophore residues. However, we recognize that the use of hazardous reagents renders the method impracticable without posing a risk to workers. Hence, the present study explores differing, nonhazardous reagents that can undergo the photocatalytic oxidation mechanism to achieve TW materials.
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What is the context of this research?
Existing transparent wood (TW) methods use solution-based immersion to delignify natural hardwoods, generating a liquid waste harmful to the environment and difficult to properly dispose of.
A more recent approach uses a lignin-modifying method rather than previous lignin-extracting modalities. However, while the photocatalytic depolymerization of lignin is significantly waste-reducing, the method requires the use of hazardous chemical reagents, therefore posing a risk to industry workers outside of the laboratory setting.
Hence, the aim of the present study is to propose safer chemical reagents and devise an implementable strategy to effectually attain TW materials.
What is the significance of this project?
Energy efficiency and environmental conservation in industry necessitate the investigation of sustainable alternatives to petrochemical-based polymers and high-cost material manufacturing.
Hence, wood as a naturally abundant, biodegradable material has been explored for its potential to be modified into eco-friendly, multifunctional biocomposites for advanced engineering and sustainable design. One such composite, transparent wood (TW), exhibits promise as the window of the future and for applications in smart buildings.
Unfortunately, several existing TW methods mitigate the green objectives by producing significant liquid waste and posing a health hazard to users. Therefore, this study aims to devise a sustainable, user-friendly TW method implementable in engineering and industry.
What are the goals of the project?
Through the present study, we hope to devise an implementable, green chemical modification method that minimizes the risk of health and environmental toxicities whilst achieving the desired result of robust, high-performance transparent wood (TW) materials.
We design this study by performing the photocatalytic depolymerization of lignin macromolecules with different, nonhazardous reagents on various hardwood species. Then, we will measure the optical functionalities (transmittance) with a transparency meter, analyze the chemical composition of lignin by FTIR, and observe the preserved cell wall structure by scanning electron microscopy.
We hope to publish our findings in an undergraduate journal and to potentially develop a TW product that is commercially available.
Transparent wood (TW) is a unique material exhibiting novel structural and optical functionalities. The use of green chemical modification and resin infiltration can attain TW materials in a sustainable, nonhazardous manner. Furthermore, we will be supplied by our institution's Department of Chemistry and Woodcraft Department for the required chemical reagents, lab space, and the various hardwood samples necessary to execute the project.
However, we will need to attain a few materials and instruments for the continuation of the project. The crowdfunding through Experiment.com will enable us to purchase the index-matched epoxy resins, the vacuum chamber and pump for epoxy infiltration, a proficient UV-A lamp for photocatalysis, and other items necessary to facilitate the project team's endeavors.
Presently, trial experiments are underway to optimize the lignin-depolymerization mechanism on Balsa wood veneers. We intend to establish a protocol for the development of transparent wood (TW) in the incoming year. In the spring semester, we will analyze and measure the functionalities of TW and devise plans for implementation and data collection. Preparations for an academic poster for conference presentation and draftings for a manuscript will occur over the summer.
Dec 05, 2022
Dec 09, 2022
Closing the year with an established lignin-depolymerized (bleached) wood protocol.
Feb 22, 2023
Kentucky Academy of Sciences (KAS) grant rewards are distributed to winning proposals (current applicants).
Mar 01, 2023
Purchasing vacuum chambers and pumps; beginning of transparent wood trials.
May 10, 2023
Closing the academic year with an implementable method for transparent wood in industry.
Meet the Team
Hello fellow scientists and researchers!
I am Oscar Hanson, a second-year undergraduate at Berea College interested in clinical oncology and cancer biology. I aspire to a career as a physician-scientist devoted to ameliorating the devastation of cancer by exploring therapeutic strategies via genetic medicine.
Currently, I study chemistry (concentrated in biochemistry) as a pre-medicine student. Over the summer I have been blessed with a biomedical research internship in the Pozzi lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where we investigated the underlying disease mechanisms of kidney fibrosis.
Here, I wish to conduct my own research project (feasible for an undergraduate) and to learn more about designing studies for the advancement of science.
Best regards to all.
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