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.
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.
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.
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.
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.