Transparent Furniture that Glows in the Dark

by | Nov 28, 2016

Researchers reveal “Quantum-Dot Wood”, transparent wood impregnated with luminescent semiconductor nanoparticles.

Imagine transparent load-bearing rafters, or even wooden furniture that also provides lighting—i.e. actually is the light source—for your home. In their recent article in the journal Advanced Optical Materials  IIya Sychugov and colleagues from the KTH in Sweden and the University of Alberta in Canada have revealed how they have made what they call “Quantum-Dot Wood”, de-lignified transparent wood that has been impregnated with luminescent semiconductor nanoparticles.

Capitalizing on recent work from two groups, L. Hu et al. from the University of Maryland, USA (Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 5181) and L. Berglund et al. from the KTH in Sweden (Biomacromolecules 2016, 17, 1358), this latest work involves using methyl methacrylate (MMA) which has been enriched with luminescent quantum dots (QDs) to fill the pores in the wood and then polymerizing the MMA.

Si and CdSe QDs are used and under blue/UV excitation the materials exhibited diffused red and green luminescence, respectively. The researchers point out that these luminescent transparent wood nanocomposites offer interesting possibilities for applications that can benefit from their unique structural and optical properties. Examples would be furniture for general lighting or luminescent solar concentrators for building integration, where the proven mechanical strength of this transparent wood is a clear advantage. The nontoxicity and material abundance of Si QDs could enable sustainable and large-scale manufacturing of this new luminescent material.


a-d, left to right. a) A photograph of the quantum dots embedded in glass; b) a photograph of transparent wood, showing the diffused luminescence distributed over the whole piece; c) a photograph of transparent wood integrated in a larger PMMA piece; d) A high-magnification SEM image of the Si QD transparent wood cross section.