Sol-gel technology to enhance performance properties of wood or wood fiber
Various approaches have been developed over the centuries to improve the durability of wood for use under different environmental conditions. For example, to protect wood from damage caused by wood-destroying fungi or wood-staining mold, wood has been impregnated with toxic chemicals that prevent wood decay or mold colonization. Although this approach has been successful in improving the durability of wood against fungal or mold growth, its environmental sustainability has come under increased scrutiny. Reports have emerged indicating that production, treatment, and waste management of wood-protection chemicals has had a negative impact on the environment. Consequently, intensive research is required to develop new environmentally sustainable technologies for improving the durability of wood used in residential construction. With support from industry partners, FPL researchers are developing new sol-gel technologies to enhance performance properties of wood or wood fiber. Sol-gel technologies are wet-chemical techniques that are widely used in the fields of materials science and ceramic engineering. Specifically, we have demonstrated that in situ sol-gel deposition of hybrid inorganic/organic thin films on wood substrates greatly improves their resistance to mold growth. In addition to using non-toxic ingredients, sol-gel modification of wood is energy efficient.