A from forestry waste, researchers from UDT and the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Oceanography hope to develop, thanks to Fondef Idea funding, a product that keeps wood free of fungi.

Dr. Cecilia Fuentealba Becerra, a researcher at the Technological Development Unit, has been working for several years on research related to the use of forest waste or forest biomass. Today she is the director of the Fondef Idea project, which seeks to carry out one of these lines of work, specifically, obtaining a natural wood protector, extracted from the bark of the eucalyptus tree.

For this purpose, she works with Dr. Claudia Pérez Manríquez, from the Laboratory of Chemistry of Natural Products of the Faculty of Natural and Oceanographic Sciences, who is the alternate director of the project. She is accompanied by researchers Gustavo Cabrera Barjas and Vicente Hernández Castillo.

The project addresses at least two problems affecting the forestry industry. On the one hand, eucalyptus bark is a waste that is difficult to dispose of or reuse because, among other things, it is a very fibrous material. On the other hand, before the drying process begins, the wood is exposed to biotic and abiotic deterioration agents, such as fungi that produce stains. The current treatment is a synthetic solution that has a series of contraindications; it causes an undesired coloration in the wood and, in addition, it has environmental restrictions and there are even countries that prohibit its use.

Faced with this situation, the researchers turned their attention to the bark, a natural mechanism used by trees to protect themselves. “The bark has a very interesting chemical power, it is a natural shield,” said Fuentealba, director of the project. The idea is to take the promising results obtained and develop the possibility of a product that will keep the wood protected for a period of more than three months, allowing it to be transported by ship or kept in storage, without affecting its quality.

Among other challenges, Fuentealba indicated that they need to increase the duration of the protective effect. “We have to incorporate what we know about synergies, or the incorporation of various components that can strengthen the formula, so that the protective effect has a longer duration.”

Worldwide, there is literature on the effect of anti-stain products of natural origin, however, in Chile it has not been such an explored development. Its application would be made by means of vats, where the packaged wood, in this case, radiata pine, is submerged. By means of this process, the material obtains a natural protection that lasts a few months, enough to be transported or to wait in the warehouse for its drying process, which is the one that protects it definitively. In this way, the product that Fuentealba hopes to develop becomes an intermediate step, sustainable and environmentally friendly, which can help local producers to open new markets, more demanding in terms of the use of toxic substances in the production processes.

The project has a duration of two years, after which a prototype is expected to be ready for industrial scale-up. In Chile, the production of sawn timber is the most important industry in the forestry sector, which is why this solution has a wide potential impact on the industry.

Source: Katherine Pavez, Noticias UdeC