Li and a research team led by Clark School Associate Professor Liangbing Hu removed the molecule in wood that makes it rigid and dark in color (lignin), and replaced it with epoxy, which reinforces the wood's channels—making it stronger and colorless. This new "transparent wood" material, which is a highly efficient insulator and more biodegradable than plastic, could eventually replace glass in building materials and optical equipment.
"Dr. Li has been extremely innovative in inventing wood-based emerging technologies, including in the application of transparent wood in energy-efficient buildings that is better than glass" said Hu.
Li received her bachelor's degree in engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China. She completed her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at UMD in 2015, and has also published several recent papers on solar-cell technology.
This is the seventh year that Forbes has issued their "30 Under 30" list to acknowledge the top talent in 20 different industries.