Biological Properties of Wood

Rebecca Ibach, research chemist at FPL, has written a chapter for the new edition of the Handbook of Wood Chemistry and Wood Composites (2nd ed., 2013) titled Biological Properties of Wood.

Rebecca Ibach, FPL research chemist

Rebecca Ibach, FPL research chemist

Ibach is part of the Performance Enhanced Biopolymers unit at FPL.

Biological damage to wood and wood products (e.g., logs, lumber, or other products) occurs when it is not stored, handled, or designed properly. Biological organisms such as bacteria, mold, stain, decay fungi, insects, and marine borers depend heavily on temperature and moisture conditions to grow.

Among the many interesting bits of information in this chapter, one figure (Fig. 5.1) shows the climate index for decay hazard in the U.S. The index ranges from a low of 0-10 to a high of 150. The higher the number means a greater decay hazard. The southeastern and northwest coasts, for example, have the greatest potential for decay. Florida ranges from about 90 in the panhandle to a high of 150 around Fort Lauderdale. Alternately, the much drier American southwest has the lowest decay potential. An index level of 10 covers much of the Intermountain West including most of southeastern California, Nevada, and a thin stretch of central Oregon.

The Handbook chapter focuses on the biological organisms, their mechanism of degradation, and prevention measures. If degradation cannot be controlled by design or exposure conditions, Ibach suggests, then protection with preservatives is warranted.

Ibach’s other research interests at FPL include related topics such as:

  • Woodfiber-plastic composite durability
  • Laboratory and field evaluations
  • Chemical modification for improvement of wood properties
  • Integrated approach to wood protection
  • Solid wood polymer composites