I enjoy the responses I get when somebody asks me about my educational background. Once I tell them that I studied “wood science” they often are puzzled. What is that?
During my career, I have performed proprietary third-party mechanical, physical, and chemical tests for new and existing wood-based products, biocides, coatings, etc. so that they could gain approval/re-registration from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Wood science is extremely important for utilizing one of the world’s most widely used natural resources, not many are aware of the types of research that goes into this field.
Below are some of the main areas of wood science research. As technology advances, these areas also continue to evolve.
This is the research of wood decay, and the information gathered through this research has a wide-range of industrial applications. Improvement in the science of wood product durability is a result of this type of research. For those who want to learn more about how to sustainably design and manage wood products, this is the field of research for them.
Wood composite materials research ranges from composite manufacturing to formaldehyde-free adhesives to the study of composite fracturing. All of this is important when trying to understand the ever-changing applications of wood composites and the diverse range of materials that can be used to make them.
Forest product innovation relies on the research of business management and marketing strategies for these products. Those who study this area learn marketing in renewable materials, corporate responsibility, and how to use the competitiveness of the industry as an advantage.
The use of wood in green building and sustainable design has increased and so has the research of this area. The development of reliable wood-based green materials is in high demand as the market for green products continues to grow.
Timber engineering and structural wood design involves advanced mathematical and engineering, including the studying of materials and components, the performance of structural systems and fasteners, and the design of wood structures. This research helps determine the integrity of wood structures.
The natural coloration of wood by fungi—or spalting—is another area of wood science research that some find fascinating. This field of study explores this process and sometimes unexpected aesthetic or commercial opportunities which come along as a result.
Perhaps the fasting growing area of wood research is bioenergy and includes many agricultural residues that are not even wood such as sugar cane bagasse, corn stover, etc. This research identifies cost effective methods of converting wood and other raw materials into pellets and thermo-chemical methods to develop energy such as pyrolysis, gasification, super critical conversion, and liquefaction.
For more information on wood science research, please visit DrToddShupe.com.
Meet the Author
Dr. Todd Shupe is the President of Wood Science Consulting, LLC. He is a well-recognized expert on wood forensics, wood preservation, wood decay and degradation, and wood species identification. He has a broad background in new product development, quality management, and marketing and sales in both the public and private sectors. For more information please visit DrToddShupe.com.
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