Cross-section of a mechanically isolated wood fibre by electron microscopy.
Mechanically-isolated wood fibres show several different properties in comparison to chemically-isolated fibres. This is one of the most recent results of a project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna. The project yields significant findings on the structural changes in wood fibres after exposure to moisture and tension. The current results are important for both the structural analysis of wood as well as for the investigation of innovative applications for this classic material.
Wood is one of the most common and versatile natural organic materials. It harmoniously combines high strength with high deformation capability. How these seemingly contradictory properties may be explained, is a topic of today´s wood research. For the analysis of wood’s numerous properties, individual wood fibres had been isolated by means of a chemical procedure until now - although researchers have suspected for a long time that this chemical procedure leads to changes in wood so that scientific results might be doubtful.
In response to this problem, scientists at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna developed an alternative isolation method for wood fibres. Fibres are isolated from wood in a mechanical procedure using fine tweezers. "We have thus succeeded in isolating wood fibres whose cell walls are not changed or destroyed by chemical substances", says Prof. Stefanie Stanzl-Tschegg at the Institute of Physics and Material Sciences when explaining the advantages of the method. "If we now compare mechanically isolated wood fibres with those that have been traditionally isolated with chemicals then we are able to better understand the weaknesses of individual methods. In this way, we obtain much new information about the structure and properties of wood." Additionally, the scientists were able to show that the mechanical isolation method is also capable of isolating single fibres of other natural materials such as hemp or flax in a much better way than previously possible.
Till C. Jelitto | alfa
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