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Concept: Wood


Violins made by Antonio Stradivari are renowned for having been the preferred instruments of many leading violinists for over two centuries. There have been long-standing questions about whether wood used by Stradivari possessed unique properties compared with modern tonewood for violin making. Analyses of maple samples removed from four Stradivari and a Guarneri instrument revealed highly distinct organic and inorganic compositions compared with modern maples. By solid-state (13)C NMR spectroscopy, we observed that about one-third of hemicellulose had decomposed after three centuries, accompanied by signs of lignin oxidation. No apparent changes in cellulose were detected by NMR and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. By thermogravimetric analysis, historical maples exhibited reduced equilibrium moisture content. In differential scanning calorimetry measurements, only maples from Stradivari violins, but not his cellos, exhibited unusual thermooxidation patterns distinct from natural wood. Elemental analyses by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry suggested that Stradivari’s maples were treated with complex mineral preservatives containing Al, Ca, Cu, Na, K, and Zn. This type of chemical seasoning was an unusual practice, unknown to later generations of violin makers. In their current state, maples in Stradivari violins have very different chemical properties compared with their modern counterparts, likely due to the combined effects of aging, chemical treatments, and vibrations. These findings may inspire further chemical experimentation with tonewood processing for instrument making in the 21st century.

Concepts: Wood, Guitar, Violin, Antonio Stradivari, Luthier, Cello, Stradivarius, Amati


We report exceptional preservation of fossil wood buried deeply in a kimberlite pipe that intruded northwestern Canada’s Slave Province 53.3±0.6 million years ago (Ma), revealed during excavation of diamond source rock. The wood originated from forest surrounding the eruption zone and collapsed into the diatreme before resettling in volcaniclastic kimberlite to depths >300 m, where it was mummified in a sterile environment. Anatomy of the unpermineralized wood permits conclusive identification to the genus Metasequoia (Cupressaceae). The wood yields genuine cellulose and occluded amber, both of which have been characterized spectroscopically and isotopically. From cellulose δ(18)O and δ(2)H measurements, we infer that Early Eocene paleoclimates in the western Canadian subarctic were 12-17°C warmer and four times wetter than present. Canadian kimberlites offer Lagerstätte-quality preservation of wood from a region with limited alternate sources of paleobotanical information.

Concepts: Diamond, Provinces and territories of Canada, Canada, Wood, Pinophyta, Magma, Northwest Territories, Craton


The cell walls in plants are made up of just four basic building blocks: cellulose (the main structural fibre of the plant kingdom) hemicellulose, lignin and pectin. Although the microstructure of plant cell walls varies in different types of plants, broadly speaking, cellulose fibres reinforce a matrix of hemicellulose and either pectin or lignin. The cellular structure of plants varies too, from the largely honeycomb-like cells of wood to the closed-cell, liquid-filled foam-like parenchyma cells of apples and potatoes and to composites of these two cellular structures, as in arborescent palm stems. The arrangement of the four basic building blocks in plant cell walls and the variations in cellular structure give rise to a remarkably wide range of mechanical properties: Young’s modulus varies from 0.3 MPa in parenchyma to 30 GPa in the densest palm, while the compressive strength varies from 0.3 MPa in parenchyma to over 300 MPa in dense palm. The moduli and compressive strength of plant materials span this entire range. This study reviews the composition and microstructure of the cell wall as well as the cellular structure in three plant materials (wood, parenchyma and arborescent palm stems) to explain the wide range in mechanical properties in plants as well as their remarkable mechanical efficiency.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Plant, Fungus, Cell wall, Lignin, Cellulose, Wood, Plant cell


Acute lung function (LF) changes might predict an accelerated decline in LF. In this study, we investigated the association between cross-shift and longitudinal changes in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)) among woodworkers in a 6-year follow-up study.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Asthma, Lung, Respiratory physiology, The Association, Spirometry, Wood


BACKGROUND: Lignin is one of the three major components in plant cell walls, and it can be isolated (dissolved) from the cell wall in pretreatment or chemical pulping. However, there is a lack of high-value applications for lignin, and the commonest proposal for lignin is power and steam generation through combustion. Organosolv ethanol process is one of the effective pretreatment methods for woody biomass for cellulosic ethanol production, and kraft process is a dominant chemical pulping method in paper industry. In the present research, the lignins from organosolv pretreatment and kraft pulping were evaluated to replace polyol for producing rigid polyurethane foams (RPFs). RESULTS: Petroleum-based polyol was replaced with hardwood ethanol organosolv lignin (HEL) or hardwood kraft lignin (HKL) from 25% to 70% (molar percentage) in preparing rigid polyurethane foam. The prepared foams contained 12-36% (w/w) HEL or 9-28% (w/w) HKL. The density, compressive strength, and cellular structure of the prepared foams were investigated and compared. Chain extenders were used to improve the properties of the RPFs. CONCLUSIONS: It was found that lignin was chemically crosslinked not just physically trapped in the rigid polyurethane foams. The lignin-containing foams had comparable structure and strength up to 25-30% (w/w) HEL or 19-23% (w/w) HKL addition. The results indicated that HEL performed much better in RPFs and could replace more polyol at the same strength than HKL because the former had a better miscibility with the polyol than the latter. Chain extender such as butanediol could improve the strength of lignin-containing RPFs.

Concepts: Cell, Cell wall, Lignin, Cellulose, Polyurethane, Wood, Pulp and paper industry, Kraft process


Agarwood is the fragrant resin-infused wood derived from the wounded trees of Aquilaria species. It is a valuable non-timber forest product used in fragrances and as medicine. Reforestation for Aquilaria trees in combination with artificial agarwood-inducing methods serves as a way to supply agarwood and conserve of wild Aquilaria stock. However, the existing agarwood-inducing methods produce poor-quality agarwood at low yield. Our study evaluated a novel technique for producing agarwood in cultivated Aquilaria trees, called the whole-tree agarwood-inducing technique (Agar-Wit). Ten different agarwood inducers were used for comparison of Agar-Wit with three existing agarwood-inducing methods. For Aquilaria trees treated with these ten inducers, agarwood formed and spread throughout the entire tree from the transfusion point in the trunk to the roots and branches of the whole tree. Agarwood yield per tree reached 2,444.83 to 5,860.74 g, which is 4 to 28 times higher than that by the existing agarwood-inducing methods. Furthermore, this agarwood derived from Agar-Wit induction was found to have a higher quality compared with the existing methods, and similar to that of wild agarwood. This indicates Agar-Wit may have commercial potential. Induction of cultivated agarwood using this method could satisfy the significant demand for agarwood, while conserving and protecting the remaining wild Aquilaria trees.

Concepts: Forestry, Tree, Wood, Branch, Trunk, Agarwood, Aquilaria, Aquilaria sinensis


Effective point-of-use devices for providing safe drinking water are urgently needed to reduce the global burden of waterborne disease. Here we show that plant xylem from the sapwood of coniferous trees - a readily available, inexpensive, biodegradable, and disposable material - can remove bacteria from water by simple pressure-driven filtration. Approximately 3 cm(3) of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person. The results demonstrate the potential of plant xylem to address the need for pathogen-free drinking water in developing countries and resource-limited settings.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Tree, Vascular plant, Wood, Need, Pinophyta, Drinking water


Synthetic structural materials with exceptional mechanical performance suffer from either large weight and adverse environmental impact (for example, steels and alloys) or complex manufacturing processes and thus high cost (for example, polymer-based and biomimetic composites). Natural wood is a low-cost and abundant material and has been used for millennia as a structural material for building and furniture construction. However, the mechanical performance of natural wood (its strength and toughness) is unsatisfactory for many advanced engineering structures and applications. Pre-treatment with steam, heat, ammonia or cold rolling followed by densification has led to the enhanced mechanical performance of natural wood. However, the existing methods result in incomplete densification and lack dimensional stability, particularly in response to humid environments, and wood treated in these ways can expand and weaken. Here we report a simple and effective strategy to transform bulk natural wood directly into a high-performance structural material with a more than tenfold increase in strength, toughness and ballistic resistance and with greater dimensional stability. Our two-step process involves the partial removal of lignin and hemicellulose from the natural wood via a boiling process in an aqueous mixture of NaOH and Na2SO3 followed by hot-pressing, leading to the total collapse of cell walls and the complete densification of the natural wood with highly aligned cellulose nanofibres. This strategy is shown to be universally effective for various species of wood. Our processed wood has a specific strength higher than that of most structural metals and alloys, making it a low-cost, high-performance, lightweight alternative.

Concepts: Engineering, Cell wall, Lignin, Materials science, Cellulose, Metallurgy, Wood, Specific strength


Optically transparent wood (TW) with transmittance as high as 85% and haze of 71% was obtained using a delignified nanoporous wood template. The template was prepared by removing the light-absorbing lignin component, creating nanoporosity in the wood cell wall. Transparent wood was prepared by successful impregnation of lumen and the nanoscale cellulose fiber network in the cell wall with refractive-index-matched prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (MMA). During the process, the hierarchical wood structure was preserved. Optical properties of TW are tunable by changing the cellulose volume fraction. The synergy between wood and PMMA was observed for mechanical properties. Lightweight and strong transparent wood is a potential candidate for lightweight low-cost, light-transmitting buildings and transparent solar cell windows.

Concepts: Optics, Structure, Optical fiber, Cell wall, Polysaccharide, Lignin, Cellulose, Wood


The development of commercially viable “green products”, based on natural resources for the matrices and reinforcements, in a wide range of applications, is on the rise. The present paper focuses on Sterculia urens short fiber reinforced pure cellulose matrix composite films. The morphologies of the untreated and 5% NaOH (alkali) treated S. urens fibers were observed by SEM. The effect of 5% NaOH treated S. urens fiber (5, 10, 15 and 20% loading) on the mechanical properties and thermal stability of the composites films is discussed. This paper presents the developments made in the area of biodegradable S. urens short fiber/cellulose (SUSF/cellulose) composite films, buried in the soil and later investigated by the (POM), before and after biodegradation has taken place. SUSF/cellulose composite films have great potential in food packaging and for medical applications.

Concepts: Present, Fiber, Cellulose, Paper, Dietary fiber, Wood, Fiberglass, Aramid