Jan. 9, 2008 Scientists in France and Japan report an advance toward unlocking the secrets of "tension wood (TW)," a step that could have practical applications in preventing costly warping and splitting of wood used in construction projects.
In the study, Bruno Clair and colleagues point out that whereas normal wood tends to shrink a small amount when dried, TW undergoes surprisingly high shrinkage. This shrinkage makes it undesirable for use in sun decks and other construction applications. Now, researchers want a valid explanation for this phenomenon.
In the current study, Clair and colleagues collected TW and normal wood samples from a chestnut tree and exposed the samples to different drying conditions. Using nitrogen adsorption, a technique to measure the porosity of materials, they found that the TW was composed of a gel-like layer with a surface area more than 30 times higher than in normal wood.
The collapse of this gel during drying likely caused TW's high shrinkage rate, the scientists say. The finding could lead to ways to reduce this shrinkage in order to make TW more usable for construction applications.
The report "Characterization of a Gel in the Cell Wall To Elucidate the Paradoxical Shrinkage of Tension Wood" is scheduled for the Jan. 14 issue of ACS' Biomacromolecules.
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