Nanotechnology has immense potential when it comes to wood preservation and forestry. A few years ago, nanotechnology was focused on improving wood durability, settling of wood extractives, and moisture control with the help of nano-manipulation of wood fibers. Over the years, this focus has shifted to major commercial applications across various industries including food and beverage, packaging, automotive, healthcare, sensors and electronics, and construction among others owing to rapid technological advancements. Investments in research and development along with introduction to advanced techniques are anticipated t impel the business opportunities in near future.

Nanotechnology, the Enabler of Woodworking and Forestry

Relatively a new branch of technology, nanotech encompasses the knowledge of chemistry, physics, technology, and biology of objects at less than 100 nanometer scale. Cellulose is a vital structural component of plants and the most common natural polymer available. Cotton and wood pulp are the primary source of this renewable and biodegradable material. It is also extracted from other sources like flax, jute, sisal, and types of algae among others. Wood waste can also be used to produce cellulose.

Latest advancements in wood production and technology with regards to nanotechnology has made it one of the most promising areas of wood utilization around the world. Cellulose nanomaterials can be produced using wood chips and wood scraps. Nanotechnology has the potential to prove advantageous across various aspects of forest sector ranging from operations, plants, harvesting, forest management, and wood-based products such as furniture.

Thermal Conductivity, Water Resistance, and Fireproofing

The primary problem with using wood-composite materials and wood products is their susceptibility towards biological agents leading to deterioration. These materials are prone to damage caused by moisture, fungi, termites, insects, and extreme temperatures. Researchers have been working on developing wood preservatives and other commercially-advanced processes to overcome these problems. Heat treatment is one of the most popular techniques used to modify molecular structure of wood. This technology can improve durability of large wood members with the application of nano-copper (NC) and nano-silver (NS).

Wood products are vulnerable to moisture, vapor, and water as the material. Its properties depend on relative humidity, temperature, and mechanical load. Nanotechnology can improve water resistance of wood. Application of nano-zycosil (NZ) can reduce liquid permeability of wood and fiberboards to a significant degree. Nano-fibers, nano-silver, and nano-copper can improve durability and fungus resistance of wood. Nano-fibers can build an impermeable physical barrier for fire and preserves wood. Nanotechnology is also found useful in reducing production time of wood composites.

Future of Nanotechnology in Wood Industry

[caption id="attachment_126484" align="aligncenter" width="626"]nanocoating Global nanocoatings market volume, by product, 2012 - 2020 (Kilo Tons) (Source: Grand View Research)[/caption]

Forestry, wood, and wood-processing sectors are utilizing nanotechnology and metal nanoparticles to achieve higher levels of excellence. Top players are investing in research and development (R&D) and innovation to create business opportunities across different consumer segments around the world. The focus on boosting durability of wood can reduce the environmental effects of using wood and wood-composites on industrial scale. Use of nanotechnology can make wood virtually immune to discoloration, molds, moisture, water, fire and even ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Rising adoption of hydrophobic coatings for household furniture make these materials desirable for consumers.

Recently, a team of researchers from India, Czech Republic, Korea, and Austria studied the effects of nanotechnology on wood. As per the results of this study, use of metal nanoparticles on wood can prove to be antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-abrasive. It also appeared to reduce emission of volatile organic compounds or VOCs. However, the team concluded that more tests and regulatory reforms are needed before bulk wood preservation or industrial level application of these products is done.

In another recent development, Arpa Industriale has introduced Fenix-NTM, a new smart material for interior design applications. This material is suitable for both horizontal and vertical uses and is obtained through next-gen thermoplastic resins. The product has thermal healing properties and low light reflectivity. The product is touted to be highly resistant to scratches, staining, and abrasion. According to the market research and consulting company Grand View Research, high demand for luxury furniture across high-class offices and deluxe domestic settings can boost such innovations in near future.

The Bottom Line

It can be concluded that nanotechnology has a great potential and projected application in forestry, wood, and wood-composite materials. However, multi-disciplinary research projects, collaboration of research institutes and conglomerates, and investments in innovations can help discover advanced materials to be used for the preservation of wood.

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