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Physical, mechanical and biological properties of thermo-mechanically densified and thermally modified timber using the Vacu3-process

Wehsener, Jörg, Brischke, Christian, Meyer-Veltrup, Linda, Hartig, Jens, Haller, Peer
European journal of wood and wood products 2018 v.76 no.3 pp. 809-821
Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior, Picea abies, Populus nigra, Quercus robur, abrasion resistance, color, dimensional stability, durability, hardness, heat treatment, lumber, soft-rot fungi, strength (mechanics), wood, wood density
Densification and thermal modification change wood properties in different ways depending on the treatment conditions and the wood species. In the presented investigations, densification and thermal modification were applied consecutively. The primary objective of this treatment combination was the compensation of reduced mechanical properties due to the thermal modification by densification. The combined processes were applied to five European wood species: poplar (Populus nigra L.), beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), Norway spruce (Picea abies Karst.), English oak (Quercus robur L.) and European ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.). Depending on the mean density of the species, a thermo-mechanical densification of 43 or 50% was imposed to improve mechanical strength parallel to the grain. Subsequently, the densified material was thermally modified in the so-called Vacu³-process at 230 °C and 20 or 80% vacuum and at 240 °C and 20% vacuum. The thermal modification resulted in changing wood colour, mechanical strength, hardness, dimensional stability and durability. All the wood modification processes were carried out at industrial scale after pre-tests at laboratory scale. The modified material was characterized regarding flexural properties, static and dynamic hardness, structural integrity, abrasion resistance, moisture dynamics, dimensional stability, and durability against white, brown and soft rot fungi. In summary, the test results showed that the consecutive application of thermo-mechanical densification and thermal modification leads to significantly improved durability whilst mechanical properties at least for beech, ash and poplar remained and the material is dimensionally stable.