Samuel L. ZelinkaBuilding and Fire Sciences
Supervisory Materials Research Engineer
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
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For most materials, temperature is the most important environmental variable: properties like strength and electrical conductivity vary enormously depending on temperature. But in wood, moisture replaces temperature as the most important environmental variable. Moisture within the wood affects the mechanical properties of wood and can change physical properties such electrical conduction by as much as ten orders of magnitude (ten billion times). Many of the challenges of using wood as an engineering material (e.g. decay, corrosion of fasteners, and dimensional instability), arise from changes in the wood moisture content or an abundance of moisture within the wood.Wood-moisture relations have been studied since the 1950's, and have thus far been characterized empirically. Our research interests focus on developing a mechanistic understanding of wood-moisture relations so that more durable wood products can be created.
- Electrical properties of wood
- Corrosion of metal fasteners in wood
- Fundamental research on wood-moisture relations
Most "wood failures" are really "moisture failures". Except in extreme events (earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc.), wood fails in service because (1) it is attacked by mold, decay fungi, or other wood-degrading organisms or (2) it is weakened by splitting/checking caused by dimensional instability through moisture cycles- neither of which happen if the wood remains dry. The ultimate goal of my research is a transformative change in the way people understand how wood absorbs moisture, resulting in completely new methods of wood protection
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D. , 2009
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.S. , 2006
- University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.S. , 2005
- ASTM International, Member Committee D07 on Wood Non-voting member of D07. (2008 - Current)
- ASTM International, Member Committee G01 on Corrosion of Metals Voting member of G01 and the following Subcommittees: G01.05, G01.11, G01.14, G01.14.01 (2008 - Current)
- National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), Vice Chairman Specific Technology Group 38- Process Industry—Pulp, Paper, and Biomass Conversion Vice Chairman of STG 38. (2010 - 2012)
- National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), Member multiple Member of Specific Technology Groups (STG):02, 04, 28, 46, 60, 62, and Technology Exchange Groups (TEG) 097X, 189X, 232X, 311X, 428X (2008 - 2012)
- Presidential Early Career Scientist Award (PECASE), 2011 The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
- Forest Service Award for Early Career Scientists, 2011 The award recognizes scientists who are at the beginning of their research careers and have demonstrated, through personal accomplishments, outstanding capability and exceptional promise for significant future achievement.
- Greater Madison Federal Agency Association Federal Employee of the Year (technical), 2011 This award recognizes an employee whose sustained performance has made the greatest impact in meeting and achieving the goals, mission and overall success of his/her organization.
- Finalist- Hertz Fellowship, 2005 The Graduate Fellowships of the Hertz Foundation are widely considered to be among the most prestigious offered anywhere. 70 finalists are selected from over 700 applicants.
- Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, 2004 Widely considered the most eminent award in the U.S. conferred upon undergraduates studying the sciences, Goldwater Scholarships support study in the fields of mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences.
|Publication Year: 2019|
Highlight ID: 1323
|Development of New Kinetics Models for Water Vapor Sorption in Wood|
Wood is constantly exchanging water with its environment and these exchanges control nearly all of wood's amazing properties. Research has recently shown that this process is still not understood and old models that were thought to explain these proc ...
Highlight ID: 1330
|Monitoring Moisture Levels in Mass Timber Buildings|
Detailed measurements on moisture levels in mass timber buildings in the United States are scarce. Researchers are working with Colorado School of Mines to monitor conditions in mass timber buildings in three different U.S. climates. ...
|Publication Year: 2018|
Highlight ID: 1302
|Examination of Historic National Park System Ship Eureka|
Researchers collaborated with the National Park Service (NPS) to examine a historic ship preserved at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. ...
Highlight ID: 1313
|Improving the Accuracy of Automated Instruments for Moisture in Wood|
Automated instruments are increasingly used for measuring the equilibrium moisture content of wood. Research finds that common methods have much larger errors than claimed in the literature, so researchers developed a method to improve accuracy. ...
Highlight ID: 1301
|Wood Adhesives at High Temperatures|
Researchers examined the performance of finger-jointed lumber to understand how it performs in fire. ...
|Publication Year: 2017|
Highlight ID: 1273
|Fire performance of CLT buildings|
Fire tests demonstrate that CLT buildings can be designed to withstand fire. ...
Highlight ID: 1292
|Improving experimental techniques that probe wood-moisture interactions|
Prior methods using dynamic vapor sorption instruments mischaracterized the equilibrium moisture content of wood. Equilibrium is reached after much longer times than previously claimed. This project provides a basis for methods that improve accuracy ...
Highlight ID: 1282
|Scientists study how water changes wood|
Water causes a host of wood damage mechanisms such as mold, decay, fastener corrosion, and splitting. This research elucidates how water changes wood and leads to these wood damage mechanisms. ...
|Publication Year: 2015|
Highlight ID: 601
|Advancing Understanding of Wood Damage Mechanisms|
Forest Service researchers examined the diffusion of ions in wood using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy. The researchers found that there was a threshold moisture content below which diffusion does not occur. These data can help to ...
|Publication Year: 2014|
Highlight ID: 588
|New Insight into Wood Damage Mechanisms|
Wood fails because bad things start to happen when wood gets wet. Dimensional stability, mold growth, fungal attack, fastener corrosion, all are caused by fluctuations in moisture or an abundance of moisture in the wood. This research presents a new ...
Highlight ID: 581
|Possibilities and Pitfalls of Computer Simulation for Building Moisture Analysis|
Moisture problems are much less expensive to correct in the building design phase than after the building is constructed. Computer-based simulation tools allow designers to gauge the risk of moisture problems. Although simulation can be useful as a d ...
|Publication Year: 2013|
Highlight ID: 438
|Desk Reference on Fastener Corrosion Created for Engineers|
Fastener corrosion is a design consideration when building exterior wood structures. Forest Products Laboratory researchers recently developed a desk reference for fastener corrosion with wood to help engineers select appropriate construction materia ...
|Publication Year: 2012|
Highlight ID: 15
|Water Freezing in Wood: How Low Can It Go|
The freezing and melting of water in wood gives clues about how water bonds to wood during processes such as wood decay and fastener corrosion ...
|Publication Year: 2011|
Highlight ID: 278
|Corrosion of metals in wood|
Corrosion data are necessary for the safe design and construction of wood decks and patios. Previous research was unable to calculate corrosion rates because the surface areas of threaded fasteners are difficult to calculate. This work builds upon ...
|Publication Year: 2010|
Highlight ID: 154
|A percolation model for water and electrical conduction in wood with implications for durability|
Recently, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory and University of Wisconsin have developed a new model of electrical conduction in wood that provides a good fit to experimental data, offers insight into the mechanism of conduction, and integr ...
Highlight ID: 170
|Centennial Edition, Wood Handbook—Wood as an Engineering Material|
The Wood Handbook—Wood as an Engineering Material serves as a primary reference document for a wide variety of users-from the general public through architects and design engineers who use wood in highly engineered structures. ...
|Research Projects serving in the role of Principal Investigator|
|Project Name||Start Date||End Date|
|Develop information on the relationships between moisture, energy efficiency & durability in residential and non-residential wood buildings|
Total affiliated publications: 27
|Develop technologies & methods to improve the fire performance of wood-based structures and reduce the loss from catastrophic wildland fire|
Total affiliated publications: 24
|Fundamental research on heat and mass transfer in wood products|
Total affiliated publications: 25
|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...
|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, g...
|Paper Poised to Fill New Gaps as Insulation:|
Buildings account for 40% of energy usage in the United States. In a world that stresses increased levels of responsible energy use, ensuring that new and existing construction is as efficient as possible will be vital to meeting our nation's sustainability goals. Wood has long been the material of ...
|Evaluating Wood Species and Preservatives for Highway Sign Posts|
Wooden sign posts have been around about as long as roads. While most people take such roadside attractions for granted, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory - as usual - take the time to investigate potential improvements...
|Fastener Corrosion Research Garners Wood Engineering Achievement Award|
Samuel Zelinka will be awarded a Wood Engineering Achievement Award at the 2014 Forest Products Society Annual Excellence Awards, Aug. 10-13, in Quebec City...
|Investigating Historic Wood Moisture Data|
Wood and water have a delicate relationship. For over a century, the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) has provided data on how wood products and moisture interact under various conditions. This includes equilibrium moisture content (EMC) values of wood for given temperature and relative humidity con...
|Why and How Do Metals Corrode in Treated Wood?|
Scientist Sam Zelinka is the FPL expert on corrosion of fasteners in treated wood. This week we continue our discussion of this subject from Zelinka’s publication Guide for Materials Selection and Design for Metals Used in Contact with Copper-Treated Wood and a related publication, Corrosion of Fa...
|The Corrosive Facts for Home Builders|
We may be moving into the season of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, but many a home owner is already planning next year’s construction. FPL engineer Sam Zelinka recently published a desk reference on fastener corrosion created for engineers. Let’s dig into that desk reference and a related p...
|Desk Reference on Fastener Corrosion Created for Engineers|
Over the past few years, FPL research materials engineer Samuel Zelinka has investigated the corrosion of fasteners in new wood preservatives. Recently, Zelinka compiled his research findings into a single report on corrosion of metals in wood. The report, titled Corrosion of Fasteners in Wood Trea...
|FPL Research Patented|
A patent titled “Method and Apparatus for Determining the Surface Area of a Threaded Fastener” was recently awarded to FPL researchers Douglas Rammer and Samuel Zelinka. The invention is a method for reliably determining the surface areas of threaded fasteners, such as wood screws, drywall scr...
|Presidential Honor Awarded to FPL Scientist|
President Obama named Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) engineer Samuel Zelinka as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. Zelinka is one of 94 recipients for the 2011 award, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineerin...