UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A researcher in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences recently won second place in this year's competition for the Wood Award, sponsored by the Forest Products Society.
Brad Gething, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Forest Resources wood products program, was honored for his study, "The Computational Modeling of Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Flow in Solid Wood Material." It was his doctoral dissertation, which he defended last fall in the interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering program.
"It is gratifying to know that others see merit in the research after the hard work that I put into it," Gething said. "I'm very grateful for the support from the college and the guidance I've received from my committee and my advisor, who encouraged me to submit my research for the competition."
The Wood Award recognizes and honors outstanding graduate student research conducted in the field of wood and wood products. Wood Award papers describe original research on a wide range of topics, including harvesting and forest operations, development and manufacture of products, fundamental properties, end-use applications, and distribution and marketing.
Judges rate the papers on the basis of the explanation of the science, quality of work, innovation, skill of treatment, conclusions and applicability. The winners of the Wood Award give a Technical Forum (poster) presentation at the 2012 International Forest Products Society Convention, which will be held June 3-5 in Washington, D.C.
Gething's research with supercritical carbon dioxide -- also known as SC CO2 -- was especially notable because it helps scientists to better understand, through computational predictive modeling, the critical development of liquid flow behavior relative to carbon dioxide gas flow within wood material.
Supercritical carbon dioxide is a unique type of phase-change fluid that has special diffuse capabilities with unique liquid properties, including high solvency, Gething explained. It can act as an important replacement for conventional, petroleum-based organic solvents and can promote more effective preservative treatment of wood.
With its gaseous to quasi-liquid behavior, SC CO2 can improve substantially the wood- treatment process because it is much more environmentally neutral compared with volatile organics found in the solvent commonly used as a chemical-treatment delivery mechanism.
"I'm optimistic about the development of the technology because it provides an opportunity for the wood-treatment industry to impregnate wood species that otherwise are difficult to treat, but in a way that greatly reduces the negative impacts on our environment," he said. "I believe technologies such as these are an integral part of our progress as a society."
Gething's adviser was John Janowiak, professor of wood product engineering. His doctoral committee included Nicole Brown, associate professor of wood chemistry; Virendra Puri, distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering; and Turgay Ertekin, professor of energy and mineral engineering; all at Penn State; and Jeffrey Morrell, distinguished professor of wood science and engineering at Oregon State University.