A Salty Tale of Wood Damage Research and Discovery

A tenacious fungus, a conspiracy theory, a historic ship, a unique gift from Princeton University, and two Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers, Grant Kirker and Samuel Zelinka, collaborating with researchers from Germany and Canada all converged in the right order of events to produce some of the most significant advances in wood salt damage understanding in over twenty years.

Samuel Zelinka – Supervisory Materials Research Engineer
Grant Kirker – Research Forest Products Technologist

A recent publication, “Salt Damage in Wood: Controlled Laboratory Exposures and Mechanical Property Measurements,” is the result of all of these circumstances and characters clashing and aligning.

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Searching for Natural Resistance through Infrared Spectroscopy

Closeup view of Western Junipier – By Syntheticmessiah – stock.adobe.com

Durability is one of the most important building qualities needed for timber products. It is measured by how well wood species can resist fungal decay or insect damage.

Some trees are just naturally better at resisting rot.

And as market and public demand increases for more naturally resistant wood that hasn’t been treated with potentially harmful preservatives, researchers are looking to the trees for answers.

That’s what PhD student Shahlinney Lipeh from Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in collaboration with Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Mark Mankowski and a group of international researchers are looking for through infrared spectroscopy.   

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Adhering to a New Standard of Excellence in Innovative Building Materials

CLT Construction – By Darryl Byle, stock.adobe.com

It’s a sticky problem that Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Juliet Tang in collaboration with faculty member Hyungsuk Lim and graduate students from the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, Mississippi State University, find themselves researching.

Juliet Tang
Research Forest Products Technologist
Durability and Wood Protection Research

The team is brainstorming innovative ways to make the building material of the future—mass timber—more versatile. But in order to do that, they have to find an adhesive and a preservative, two substances that tend to be uncooperative together when used on timber, that will work concurrently for optimal bond strength and durability.

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110 Years of FPL: Early Fire Retardant Treatments

In celebration of 110 years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we are revisiting blog posts that detail some of our most interesting historic people, places, and projects. Enjoy!

In the early days of developing fire-retardant treatments, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) investigated about 130 treatments. Combinations of chemicals were used to obtain the best performance for both fire resistance and other performance properties, such as corrosion, leaching, gluing, finishing, and cost.

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International Collaboration and Competitive Rivalry Push FPL Scientists to Excellence

There was nothing earth-shattering found—though some hypotheses were discarded and new research launching points were identified. And that’s extremely important because science, research and development are not linear. Sometimes there isn’t a “Eureka!” moment, just insatiable curiosity, grit and determination that push scientists to explore and discover the unknown.

And sometimes there’s a very human element that pushes scientific discovery—healthy human rivalry.

That’s the exciting part of this story—it’s what readers won’t learn from the recent publication from Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers, “Effects of Wood Moisture Content and the Level of Acetylation on Brown Rot Decay.”

Samuel Zelinka
Supervisory Materials Research Engineer

In the world of wood moisture science, there are very few scientists at the top. FPL’s Samuel Zelinka is one of the top scientists in his field. In Denmark, Emil Thybring, another top wood moisture researcher, is challenging Zelinka. Both are trying to puzzle out one crucial question—why wood moisture behaves the way it does in acetylated wood.  

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