Canadian Consulting Engineer

From wood pulp to high-tech glass

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have discovered a way to make a glass film that will reflect sunlight at any point in the spectrum.

November 29, 2010   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have discovered a way to make a glass film that will reflect sunlight at any point in the spectrum.

The discovery by Kevin Shopsowitz, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, was made by accident after he spilled some wood cellulose solution on a lab bench. When the solution dried it created an iridescent film.

He and other researchers then mixed the cellulose solution with sand and applied high heat. According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, they then cooked out the cellulose and were left with “silica in the form of glass, with pores inside the glass oriented in the pattern of the departed wood material.”

They can tweak the amount of silica in the mixture to change the colour of the glass and the part of the spectrum of light that it reflects. Unlike with chemical film, the colours won’t fade over time because it is the nanostructure of the glass that gives it the colour.

The treated glass would be able to keep out infrared and ultraviolet light.

Beside the application to glass for buildings and automobiles, it’s believed the glass could be used for sensors and in other high-tech products.

The research was done by UBC in partnership with the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and FPInnovations, a forest product research institute. Mark MacLachlan is the associate professor at UBC in charge of the research project, and Wadood Hamad is principal scientist at FPInnovations.

The Journal Nature published an article on the discovery in mid-November


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