New part­ner­ship tack­les tim­ber cladding re­search

Australasian Timber - - NEWS -

Anew pi­lot pro­gram has been launched by Weather­tex and Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (QUT) to un­der­stand the chem­i­cal changes that take place dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of ex­ter­nal tim­ber cladding. A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween in­dus­try and academia, the in­tended out­come of the pro­gram is to iden­tify a way of en­hanc­ing the com­mer­cial value of plant ma­te­ri­als through their struc­ture. Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man of Weather­tex Paul Michael said the com­pany ini­tially be­came in­ter­ested in the work of QUT upon dis­cov­er­ing an R&D project they were un­der­tak­ing. This project in­ves­ti­gated the util­i­sa­tion of steam ex­plo­sion of wood to cre­ate pig feed liquor and the re­sul­tant waste of biomass fi­bre. “Weather­tex uses steam ex­plo­sion of wood to cre­ate a biomass fi­bre, re­sult­ing in a by-prod­uct of steam liquor that is cur­rently treated as a waste prod­uct and thrown away. I con­tacted Dr Mark Har­ri­son at QUT to talk about this fur­ther, as the syn­er­gies were ob­vi­ous and ex­cit­ing. “Not only are we in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­mer­cial uses for the waste liquor cre­ated dur­ing our process, but also a syn­thetic sub­sti­tute for one of the three key (and in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to source) in­gre­di­ents that make up Weather­tex prod­ucts. This is an in­cred­i­bly valu­able and ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween in­dus­try and academia,” Mr Michael said. Dr Mark Har­ri­son of QUT is lead­ing the re­search team’s project that uses ther­mo­chem­i­cal pro­cesses to mod­ify the struc­ture of plant ma­te­ri­als and en­hance their com­mer­cial value. The team is ap­ply­ing the tech­niques de­vel­oped in a cur­rent Ru­ral R&D for Profit project to un­der­stand the ef­fect of spe­cific tim­ber feed­stocks on the qual­ity and phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of the tim­ber cladding pro­duced by Weather­tex, a mem­ber of the FWPA Bioen­ergy and Bio­ma­te­ri­als in­ter­est group. Dr Har­ri­son ex­plained QUT be­gan en­gag­ing with Weather­tex as a re­sult of a we­bi­nar or­gan­ised for the FWPA Bioen­ergy and Bio­ma­te­ri­als in­ter­est group. “We have been in fre­quent con­tact with them ever since and, fol­low­ing a site visit ear­lier this year, we are in­te­grat­ing this pi­lot study as part of the Ru­ral R&D for Profit project A Prof­itable Fu­ture for Aus­tralian Agri­cul­ture: Biore­finer­ies for Higher-Value An­i­mal Feeds, Chem­i­cals, and Fu­els. “Both QUT and Weather­tex are con­fi­dent the re­sults ob­tained from th­ese pi­lot stud­ies will un­der­pin a longer-term re­search and devel­op­ment col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Dr Har­ri­son said. This pi­lot project is be­ing sup­ported by Sugar Re­search Aus­tralia. It has been made pos­si­ble through fund­ing from the Aus­tralian Govern­ment Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources as part of its Ru­ral R&D for Profit pro­gram. This project is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween sev­eral R&D Cor­po­ra­tions in­clud­ing FWPA.

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