Luminescent Wood Could Light Up Homes

When exposed to UV light on the outside, a luminescent wood panel lights up an indoor space, whereas a non-luminescent panel (l.) does not. (Source: ACS Nano)

The right indoor lighting can help set the mood, from a soft romantic glow to bright, stimu­lating colors. But some materials used for lighting, such as plastics, are not eco-friendly. Now, swiss researchers from ETH Zurich 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. Qiliang Fu, Ingo Burgert and colleagues wanted to develop a lumines­cent wood film that could overcome these limi­tations.

The researchers 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 deligni­fied wood with a solution containing quantum dots – semi­conductor nano­particles that glow in a particular color when struck by ultraviolet (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. The team demons­trated the ability of a lumines­cent panel to light up the interior of a toy house. Different types of quantum dots could be incor­porated into the wood film to create various colors of lighting products, the researchers say. (Source: ACS)

Reference: Q. Fu et al.: Luminescent and Hydrophobic Wood Films as Optical Lighting Materials, ACS Nano 14, 13775 (2020); DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c06110

Link: Wood Materials Science, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

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