Hot pressing leads to changes in wood water sorption properties, linear viscoelastic behavior, and chemistry. In hot-pressed hybrid poplar, storage modulus linearly correlates with cellulose apparent crystallinity index and degree of polymerization, revealing the impact of cellulose hydrolysis on wood viscoelasticity during hot pressing.
Heat treatment and densification during hot pressing are known to alter wood chemical, physical, and viscoelastic properties. Interrelationships between these properties and their changes during hot pressing are, however, unknown. They are expected to play a significant role on mat consolidation during the manufacture of wood-based composites. This study aims (1) to characterize the impact of hot pressing on the physical, viscoelastic, and chemical properties of hybrid-poplar wood and (2) to assess possible relationships between these properties. Dry and moist wood samples were hot-pressed under various conditions of temperature. Specific gravity, water sorption isotherms, and dynamic viscoelastic properties of hot-pressed wood were measured together with cellulose apparent crystallinity and molecular weight. Possible relationships between these properties were assessed with statistical analyses. Wood specific gravity, sorption isotherm, dynamic moduli, and cellulose crystallinity were all affected by the hot-pressing conditions. The viscoelastic response of hot-pressed wood was found to relate not only to the extent of densification but also to in situ molecular properties of cellulose. Cellulose apparent crystallinity index and degree of polymerization in hot-pressed wood linearly correlated with storage modulus, revealing the importance of cellulose hydrolysis during hot pressing on wood viscoelastic response. During hot pressing, wood cellulose hydrolysis appears to govern the viscoelastic response, in addition to wood densification.
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