Tech researchers find new, less toxic way to pressure-treat lumber

Anyone who knows anything about building with wood--especially for outdoor use--knows the value of pressure-treated wood. But, for those who are environmentally conscious, there are problems with using that particular kind of product because the chemicals used to preserve it from decay can leach out where they can become toxic to bugs, fungi and other creatures and flora.

Scientists over at Michigan Technological University may have found an answer to that problem, however, thanks to the use of nanotechnology.

"It's a new method that uses nanoparticles to deliver preservatives into the lumber," says chemistry professor Patricia Heiden. "In our experiments, it reduced the leaching of biocides by 90 percent."

The nanoparticles are just as confusing to non-scientists as they sound. They are tiny spheres of gelatin or chitosan--a material found in the shells of shrimp and other shellfish--chemically modified to surround the fungicide tebuconazole. The little spheres require no special handling.

"You just pressure-treat the wood in the usual way," Heiden says.

The initial tests show that the nanoparticle-treated wood is just as resistant to rot and insects as conventionally treated lumber.  The researchers are now testing the wood in the warm, wet weather of Hawaii.

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Patricia Heiden, Michigan Tech
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