Scientists create revolutionary bamboo-based glass to save the planet

Scientists create revolutionary bamboo-based glass to save the planet
Scientists create revolutionary bamboo-based glass to save the planet

Efforts to curb climate change are needed across all industries. That of glass knows this well. For decades, this material has been made with silica. In 2020, 130 million tonnes of silica glass were produced worldwide.

But in addition to being dangerous for health – crystalline silica particles are classified as carcinogens – using this mineral which is found very abundantly in nature to make glass is very bad for the planet. To counter this, a team of researchers worked on a glass-like material from bamboo.

“Despite its many advantages such as a high level of transparency, availability of raw material, traditional silica glass still struggles with several challenges, including its fragility, high density and CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions not negligible during its manufacture”note the Chinese scientists behind the study, in a press release.

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Glass manufacturers will not be able to make do with wood

Glass producers are well aware of the problems associated with the use of silica. This is why, for several years, transparent materials made from wood have been popular. A new way of doing things which reduces the carbon footprint of production and creates glass that is more resistant and more transparent, of course, but which largely depends on access to the raw material.

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And massive deforestation of the planet by other industries has made wood scarce. Specialists estimate that there will be a shortage of wood species for industrial use in 2050, even with reforestation plans.

To anticipate this lack, and further improve the properties of glass, researchers from CSUFT, a Chinese university specializing in forestry and technology subjects, have imagined a form of glass made from bamboo.

This plant, “which is sometimes called the ‘second forest'”scientists note, grows quickly and regenerates very quickly, unlike trees. “Bamboo reaches maturity and can be used as a raw material after 4 to 7 years. With a yield four times higher than that of wood per acre [un demi-hectare, à peu près, ndlr]bamboo is recognized for its exceptional yield”underlines Professor Wan, one of the authors of the study.

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A significant flame retardant character

Bamboo has all the attractive characteristics of wood to make a transparent material like glass, without its drawbacks. Because wood presents a major problem: the risk of fire. A risk that disappears with bamboo.

Chinese researchers have succeeded in making a transparent material from the plant. They still had to use liquid sodium silicate and incorporate it into the structure of the bamboo.

Three layers of chemical variations of silicon can then be superimposed to act as flame retardants. A process that could prove very useful for the manufacture of solar panels, for example.

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