Microwave treatment of wood

Abstract: Drying wood using microwave energy is not very common, but could be a complement to conventional air-circulation drying due to the possibility to dry wood faster than the conventional drying methods with preserved quality. Furthermore, this technique could be used to condition boards with too high moisture content gradient. In this study, an industrial-scale, online microwave drier for wood components has been used and adapted to wood treatment. The aim of the present work was to investigate if the microwave drying method itself affects such wood properties as bending strength, hardness and colour change. Another aim was to explain, with finite element model simulations, the interaction between microwaves and wood during heating and drying and to a lesser extent also during microwave scanning of wood. Tests of the mechanical properties of wood showed no difference in bending strength in comparison with the conventional air circulation method. Nor was there any significant difference in wood hardness (Janka) perpendicular to the grain between the drying methods or between different temperature levels during the microwave drying. However, the results showed that there is a significant difference in wood hardness parallel to the grain between the methods when drying progressed to relatively lower levels of moisture content; i.e. wood hardness becomes higher during microwave drying. The developed multiphysics finite element model is a powerful evaluation tool for understanding the interaction between wood and microwaves during heating and drying as well as scanning. The model can be used for simulation of different microwave treatments of wood.

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