Wood film to ‘light up’ homes?

A luminescent wood panel (R) lights up an indoor space (as seen through ‘windows’; red arrows), whereas a non-luminescent panel (L) does not.

The right indoor lighting can help set the mood, from a soft romantic glow to bright, stimulating colours. But some materials used for lighting, such as plastics, are not eco-friendly.

Now, researchers from the American Chemical Society have developed a bio-based, luminescent, water-resistant wood film that could someday be used as cover panels for lamps, displays, and laser devices.

Consumer demand for eco-friendly, renewable materials has driven researchers to investigate wood-based thin films for optical applications. However, many materials developed so far have drawbacks, such as poor mechanical properties, uneven lighting, a lack of water resistance, or the need for a petroleum-based polymer matrix.

The researchers have developed a luminescent wood film that has overcome these limitations. They treated balsa wood with a solution to remove lignin and about half of the hemicelluloses, leaving behind a porous scaffold.

The team then infused the de-lignified wood with a solution containing quantum dots – semiconductor nano-particles that glow in a particular colour when struck by ultra-violet (UV) light.

After compressing and drying, the researchers applied a hydrophobic coating. The result was a dense, water-resistant wood film with excellent mechanical properties.

Under UV light, the quantum dots in the wood emitted and scattered an orange light that spread evenly throughout the film’s surface. Different types of quantum dots could be incorporated into the wood film to create various colours of lighting products!

The team has even demonstrated the ability of a luminescent panel to light up the interior of a toy house. When exposed to ultra-violet UV light on the outside, a luminescent wood panel lights up an indoor space (as seen through ‘windows’), whereas a non-luminescent panel does not.

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