"It's a new method that uses nanoparticles to deliver preservatives into the lumber," said chemistry professor Patricia Heiden. "In our experiments, it reduced the leaching of biocides by 90 percent."
The nanoparticles 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 said.
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.
The research is funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Other Michigan Tech researchers contributing to the project are chemistry PhD student Xiaochu Ding and, from the School of Forest Research and Environmental Science, Research Engineer/Scientist II Dana Richter, Senior Research Engineer/Scientist Glenn Larkin, Assistant Research Scientist Erik Keranen and Professor Peter Laks.