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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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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