Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.COM)
The Natural Resources Research Institute has a new research kiln that makes regional wood more marketable, and that could result in more jobs for the Northland.
The new kiln uses a process called thermal modification and the technique is scheduled for its first run within the next few days.
Regional wood species, like aspen have been grown aggressively as workers tried to benefit from markets like construction and paper making.
However, the decline in the paper industry has left these native species underutilized, and largely unprofitable.
"The wood products industry in Minnesota and in the upper Midwest has been hit hard the last few years...Actually quite hard," says Matt Aro, a research fellow at NRRI.
"So we think this has a lot of opportunity to take native species, osb, red pine, things that haven't traditionally had the durability needed for exterior applications," says Pat Donahue the Program Director of Market Oriented Wood Techniques.
And loggers aren't the only ones who would reap the benefits of thermal modification.
"Apply the technologies to developing new products that will actually create new markets and new job opportunities...," adds Donahue.
"Opportunities for saw mills for loggers, folks that are actually transporting the wood," says Aro.
NRRI is expanding its research and attempting to alter wood that has never been thermally modified.
"This new project is to explore, can we use similar thermal modification techniques using our kiln to treat engineered wood not solid wood, engineered wood would be osb (oriented strand board) wood and some of the other composite products folks may be familiar with," says Aro.
While many are familiar with improving wood durability through chemicals treatments... officials say thermal modification presents an environment friendly option.
"We improve the durability and dimensional stability of wood without using any chemicals," Aro adds.
The kiln heats the wood to extreme temperatures in the absence of oxygen.
This allows the chemical components in the wood to be physically altered, resulting in a stronger more durable product.
"This all takes a lot of time and effort. And we're excited this is really a culmination of ten years of work," says Donahue.
The process of thermally modifying wood has been around for about 20 years but, is still in the beginning stages of use in the US.
Posted to the web by Gabrielle Ware