School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences - Theses

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    An evaluation of timber drying problems in terms of permeability and fine structure
    Kininmonth, John Alexander (1931-) ( 1970)
    The relationships of difference in rate of drying to permeability and wood structure were determined for two angiosperms and one gymnosperm. These investigations took two particular drying problems as a basis for study and attempted to explain why: - heartwood of Nothofagus fusca (red beech) takes many times longer to dry than sapwood. - green sapwood of Pinus radiata (radiata pine) dries readily but, if dried and pressure-treated with water-borne preservatives, its subsequent drying is greatly retarded. Test material was used from 14 trees of N.fusca from New Zealand, four trees of Eucalyptus regnans (mountain ash) and seven trees of P.radiata from Victoria, Australia and the experimental work was carried out under three headings: (a) Unidirectional drying. Small specimens, sealed on all except one pair of grain faces, were dried in a laboratory kiln at temperatures up to 60C. Comparisons were made between radial and tangential drying in sapwood and heartwood or in green and resaturated specimens; effects of treatments such as steaming were also assessed. Moisture gradients were determined to show the contribution of free water movement to overall drying. (b) Permeability studies. A method was developed to measure the transverse permeability of green wood to the flow of micro-filtered water; established methods were used for longitudinal permeability. Data for P.radiata met the requirements allowing application of Darcy's Law for flow of fluids through inert porous media and N.fusca approximated them. Pathways of flow were determined with chemical stains. (c) Wood structure. The transmission electron microscope was used to compare the appearance of pit membranes and the cell walls in sapwood and heartwood of N.fusca. In P.radiata, emphasis was on determining the percentage of bordered pits that were aspirated in sapwood - green, after drying and resaturation and after various treatments - and relating this to differences in drying and permeability. The main conclusions drawn from this study are: (a) The green sapwood of N.fusca and E.regnans is permeable to micro-filtered water in the radial and tangential directions. After drying and resaturation, the permeability of N.fusca is unchanged but that of E.regnans is drastically reduced, particularly in the tangential direction. The heartwood of both species is impermeable when tested at a pressure differential of 40 cm.Hg. (b) Differences in the permeability of N.fusca can be explained by differences in the appearance of pit membranes in sapwood and heartwood: in heartwood, the membrane surfaces are usually completely occluded when viewed as replicas in a transmission electron microscope; in sapwood, the surfaces are always less occluded often exhibiting a clean primary well texture. It is inferred from studying the effects of various extraction treatments that the pit membrane surfaces in sapwood are less occluded than indicated by the appearance of replicas. (c) Plasmodesmata may provide pathways for mass movement of liquids in the radial direction in the wood, but, in other pits, without obvious pores, permeability probably results from movement through the general structure of the pit membrane. (d) Heartwood of N.fusca takes several times longer to dry than sapwood because of its reduced permeability coupled with lower rates of moisture diffusion. (e) Contrary to previous reports, at least 80 percent of the bordered pits in green sapwood of P.radiata are open, irrespective of distance from the outside of the tree. After drying and resaturation most pits are aspirated and the wood is much less permeable than in the green state. (f) The condition of the bordered pits has an effect on the rate of drying in the tangential direction - causing a marked reduction in resaturated material - but has no appreciable effect on radial drying which is little different in green or resaturated wood.