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Transport of Polar and Nonpolar Liquids in Softwood Imaged by Neutron Radiography


The influence of the moisture capacity of cell walls on liquid transport in wood is studied using neutron imaging in combination with precision weighing. The time-dependent and spatial distribution of two liquids, one polar, water, and one nonpolar, decane, is documented during liquid uptake in the three orthotropic directions for samples of three softwood species: spruce and fir heartwood, and pine sapwood. Polar and nonpolar liquid uptake versus time is compared, the spatial distribution of the liquids within the samples is discussed, and the liquid volume and swelling profiles along the height of the samples are described in details. Water uptake is shown to be slower than decane uptake, due to water being adsorbed by the cells walls. Decane, due to its very low contact angle and high wettability compared to water, does not face much resistance from wood cellular features.

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The experiments were carried out at the NEUTRA beamline of the Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen, Switzerland. We would like to acknowledge the contributions and support of the EMPA technicians Stephan Carl, Roger Vonbank and Daniel Heer, the Paul Scherrer Institute NEUTRA support of Jan Hovind, Laurent Galerne, trainee master student from University of Rennes for helping to perform experiments both at NEUTRA and EMPA and Dr. Iwan Jerjen from EMPA for controlling of the samples before experiments with X-ray tomography.

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Correspondence to Dominique Derome.

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Desmarais, G., Gilani, M.S., Vontobel, P. et al. Transport of Polar and Nonpolar Liquids in Softwood Imaged by Neutron Radiography. Transp Porous Med 113, 383–404 (2016).

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  • Capillary uptake
  • Nonpolar liquid
  • Softwood
  • Swelling
  • Neutron radiography