Throwback Thursday: The FPL Rotting Pit

Thanks to Grant Kirker for writing this fascinating look back into Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) history and science. Kirker is a Research Forest Products Technologist at FPL in the Durability and Wood Protection Research unit.

Throughout its 110-year history, FPL has participated in groundbreaking wood research both nationally and internationally. The FPL research libraries contain a virtual treasure trove of information pertaining to the wise use of wood and wood-based materials. Historical overviews like this would not be possible without them.

One of the earliest endeavors at the newly established Forest Products Laboratory, then located at 1509 University Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, was the testing of preservative treated wood for the expanding railroad sector in the US. The swift growth of railways across the country had created a huge demand for suitable hardwoods. But high decline rates due to wood rot fungi was a constant concern leading to an unreasonable amount of wood being used to replace rapidly rotting railroad ties. The dawn of wood preservation research at FPL was aimed at increasing the service life of rail ties to reduce the demand on America’s forests.  

Original Forest Products Laboratory Building at 1509 University Avenue
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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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