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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Mechanism for Diffusion through Wood Cell Walls

Schematic illustrating diffusion pathways in wood cell wall nanostructure. USDA Forest Service.
Schematic illustrating diffusion pathways in wood cell wall nanostructure. USDA Forest Service.
Snapshot: Diffusion through unmodified wood cell walls is via a solid polymer diffusion mechanism, which refutes the previously accepted mechanism that diffusion occurs through aqueous pathways inside of the cell walls.

Nanomechanical spectroscopy experiments were used to reveal that chemical species like mineral ions diffuse through interconnecting pathways of rubbery amorphous polysaccharides (amorphous cellulose and hemicelluloses) in wood cell walls. This diffusion mechanism is in contrast to the nearly century-old assumption that such chemical species diffuse through simple interconnecting water pathways inside of cell walls. Identifying the diffusion mechanism opens up a new paradigm in wood research because the extensive polymer science literature can now be used to design the molecular architecture of wood cell walls to optimize diffusion properties for specific uses, including: 1. In the manufacture of engineered wood building materials, such as during adhesive bonding, wood preservative treatments, and bulk wood chemical modifications. 2. In decay and fastener corrosion degradation mechanisms in wood-based materials, as degradation of in-service wood materials is a major economic and conservation issue. 3. In paper mills and biorefineries, where the diffusion of pretreatment chemicals and enzymes into cell walls is a critical process.
Princpal Investigator(s):
 Jakes, Joseph

Research Location:
  • Forest Products Laboratory

Fiscal Year: 2019
Highlight ID: 1325
Related Research Emphasis Areas: