August 9, 2022

MSU research helps essential wood products industry


Contact: Karen Brasher

MSU doctoral student Gabrielly Dos Santos Bobadilha tests CLT coatings against environmental elements including rain, heat and high humidity. (Photo by Dominique Belcher)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the US Department of Homeland Security has identified the wood products industry as a critical infrastructure workforce.

The State of Mississippi has the only state research program dedicated to expanding the service and use of wood products, providing research to the state’s forest industry. While the way research is conducted may have temporarily changed, researchers are looking at the situation to ensure important work continues and the university continues to support vital industries.

Forestry is the state’s second-largest commodity, behind poultry and eggs. Combined forestry with forest products is even larger, employing a workforce of 69,000 people in Mississippi in four industries: forestry, solid wood products, pulp and paper, and wood furniture.

Faculty and staff at the university, under the leadership of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Education and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted research alternating staff schedules to maximize productivity while following the security protocols established by the university to protect students, researchers, professors and employees. In light of Gov. Tate Reeves setting up the shelter effective April 3, researchers will continue relevant telework research activities, including data analysis, data preparation, and resource development. .

“We conduct our business differently from what we did before, but research needs to continue,” said George Hopper, dean of the MSU Forest Resources College and director of the Forest and Wildlife Research Center of the MSU. university. “The need for forest products research is vital in a state where over 19.7 million acres or 60% of our landmass is forested and owned primarily by private landowners. ”

Rubin Shmulsky, head of the sustainable bioproducts department, explained that the research expands opportunities for forest owners and advances a crucial industry.

“We are committed to our mission, even as we respond to a critical but fluid public health crisis,” Shmulsky said. “An emerging area of ​​research that will help landowners, fabricators and the construction industry is the improvement of cross-laminated wood panels. “

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a large-scale prefabricated solid engineered wood panel as defined by the APA-The Engineered Wood Association. These panels have superior qualities as a building material for long spans in walls, floors and roofs. CLT, which has been used to construct large buildings in Europe for the past two decades, is growing rapidly as a building material in the United States and Canada.

The product is made by gluing 2×4, 2×6 and 2×8 pine lumber in a perpendicular pattern. Scientists in the state of Mississippi are examining how the notch affects the strength of the product and are trying to find ways to strengthen the panels. Notching the panels improves architectural freedom and can reduce construction time. Scientists are experimenting with different notch depths and comparing panels with notches to those without notches.

“The results of this research will improve market acceptance of this emerging product by providing architects with assurance that southern pine-based CLT panels will provide the strength and stability required in new construction,” said Shmulsky. . “We are also working to improve durability by protecting against insects and fungi so that CLT has a long lifespan. “

Testing the strength and stability of lumber and engineered wood products and then finding ways to improve these variables contributes to the economic value of forest products. Scientists work with many types of wood, including engineered wood, to ensure products have the quality and long life that consumers and industries need.

An example of this work can be found in wooden power poles. There are approximately 130 million wood utility poles in service in the United States, according to the North American Wood Pole Council. Southern pine, along with other species, are commonly used as distribution and transmission poles.

MSU scientists and the board have worked together for a long time to test the durability and strength of wooden power poles, with a focus on providing manufacturers with the tools they need to operate.

“We can all appreciate the value of wooden utility poles in providing our electricity, internet and telephone services, especially now that most Americans are staying in their homes,” Shmulsky said. “This work is important to prolong the life of wooden utility poles, and their function is an essential part of the company.”

Other work in progress includes the development of bio-based plastics, graphene and nanotechnology. The development of an application to identify wood is in the early stages of development.

“We are here to ensure that our wood products industries continue to thrive now and into the future,” added Shmulsky.

For more information on the university’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, visit FWRC.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s premier university, available online at msstate.edu.