Innovation That Matters

Coating lumber with metal oxide makes it highly resistant to water | Photo source Allison Carter, Georgia Tech

Eco-friendly lumber can resist water and mould

Property & Construction

Scientists are developing a greener lumber treatment that avoids the use of harmful chemicals

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Spotted: A team of US scientists at Georgia Tech have been working on a greener alternative to traditional lumber, which is typically pressure-treated with chemicals to keep it from rotting.

By taking advantage of an existing technique known as atomic layer deposition, they are depositing an ultra-thin coating of metal oxide into the cellular structure of the lumber. The coating has proven to be effective against water absorption and mould formation.

The wood is placed into a low-pressure, airtight chamber, where a metal oxide gas is introduced. The gas molecules then permeate the wood, using its interconnected pores as an internal pathway. This creates a reaction between the wood and the gas, which forms a metal oxide coating on its inner structure.  

Further research is being conducted on how the metal oxide treatment will affect the biodegradability of lumber. The team is hopeful that the coating will not have a significant effect on biodegradation because of its nominal thickness.

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