Established in 2016, the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life (NCTDDL) is an innovative partnership between industry, academia, and government in Australia. Designed to re-invigorate national wood treatment and preservation research, the center wants to become a global leader in timber durability and design-life by using evidence-based data, systems and tools to underpin consumer confidence in the performance of timber products.
The national center has invested heavily into in-house research and as a result, wanted to purchase their own benchtop energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) analyzer that would allow its members to analyze wood preservative samples rapidly as part of their research.
Extending timber durability with wood treatment analysis
To extend the 'working' life of lumber and timber used in residential and industrial applications, wood is treated with specialty chemicals. These chemicals protect the wood against fungal decay and insect attacks, and sometimes UV light. Wood can also be treated with fire-retardants to help it quickly char when exposed to flames, reducing smoke and flame that occur in a fire.
Wood preservation isn’t new, ancient Greeks soaked wood in olive oil and the Romans coated wood with tar. Today, there are various types of chemical treatments using either water-borne or oil-borne preservatives like chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which has been widely used in Australia, is an economical option to make perishable timbers as it can effectively extend the lifetime of a radiate pine post from few years to 40 or more as an example.
Wood treatments, which need monitoring of the proper elemental composition balance of treatment solution to obtain the highest quality possible, however must often meet strict quality specifications from national standardization bodies such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute), AWPA (American Wood Preservers Association) and in Australia, by APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority).
Some restrictions in Australia and other countries mean that CCA is no longer used to treat timber for structures where there is frequent and intimate contact with humans like playground equipment, picnic tables, garden furniture or decks. In other countries CCA is completely banned or the manufacturers themselves have made the decision to discontinue its use due to its potential risk to health and the environment. But that’s why research into new preservative systems within the wood protection industry is vital to meet not only short-term but also long-term industry needs.
What is CCA?
CCA or copper chromium arsenate is a water-borne solution made from copper, chromium, and arsenic to treat timber to make it highly resistant to pests like insects, rot and fungi. It’s been widely used for decades as a wood preservative in residential structures such as decking or utility poles.
Since the late 1990’s the use of CCA-treated products has declined because of its potential risk to health, with many manufactures voluntarily discontinuing manufacturing of CCA-treated wood products for domestic uses, and replacing them with other wood preservative treatments (e.g. containing chlorine or copper).
Using XRF for quality assurance of treated wood and timber
XRF is a commonly used technology for quality assurance of wood preservatives and treated wood or timber for copper-zinc arsenate (ACZA), pentachlorophenol, CCA and various copper-based chemistries. The NCTDDL is currently conducting comprehensive research to propose standardization of quality assurance methods for treated timber in Australia. Professor Jeff Morrell, Director at the center, said, “with timber’s resurgence as a renewable, carbon-positive, and increasingly versatile construction material, ensuring timber durability is key.”
The time taken to carry out an analysis on a treated wood product is a major hurdle in managing quality in a timber treatment plant. With an XRF instrument, this becomes fast. The expertise provided by NCTDDL enables industry stakeholders in providing methods to accurately assess quality rapidly to ensure product durability and reduce waste and costs.
Professor Morrell, expert in wood deterioration and its prevention and member of the American Wood Protection Association, has used Hitachi’s XRF analyzers in his past research activities. Professor Morrell said, “Due to ease of use and reliability, Hitachi was a preferred choice of instrument provider when NCTDDL decided to purchase their own benchtop XRF analyzer for in-house wood protection research and testing.”
High quality results every time
The X-Supreme8000 from Hitachi is used at the research center for analysis of new treating solutions and preservatives by a group of researchers. The X-Supreme8000’s calibration steps are simple and fast, enabling the researchers to develop new solutions, easily analyze elemental composition for samples like copper, chromium, arsenic, zinc and chlorine to ensure long-term wood protection and integrity. They can also run ten samples at a time, making analysis faster.
The X-Supreme8000 makes it easy to get reliable, repeatable results and offers additional flexibility to allow advanced users to easily develop custom calibrations by following the simple, step-by-step method creation interface. The software also comes with customizable helpful hints and smart checks to make it fool-proof to get the right results.
Providing reliable and rapid analysis of wood preservative, the X-Supreme8000 combines application-optimized hardware and parameters with intuitive software and ease of use to make it easy for any operator to get high quality results at every shift, every test, and every time.
Our other solutions for wood treatment analysis
We also offer other EDXRF instruments that can be used for wood treatment. The benchtop EDXRF LAB-X5000 offers the same analysis in a more compact, single sample instrument, whilst the X-MET8000 handheld XRF is portable and light, enabling users to measure wood preservatives in residential and commercial structures including CCA in the field.