June 9, 2023

Researchers at the Los Baños-based Forest Products Research and Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology are currently looking into a process called thermal modification (TM) as a more eco-friendly way of protecting wood and bamboo from insect pests and fungi.

DOST-FPRDI Assistant Scientist Juanito P. Jimenez said, “Thermal modification uses high heat to change the kind of chemicals present in a piece of wood. With the right amount of heat and time of exposure, the right chemical changes take place. These usually make the wood more durable as it becomes more stable (more weather-proof, less prone to swelling and shrinking) and less appetizing to termites.”

The downside of TM is that high heat can affect the strength of the material and give it a darker color.

Jimenez said the trick is to find the right mix of temperature and treatment time that will not cause much change in wood or bamboo strength.

“TM is already being used in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, as well as some Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, and it’s about time we check how we can apply it in the Philippines,” said Jimenez who is currently verifying the gluing and finishing traits of thermally modified bamboo in a project funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

His team recently finished determining the physical and mechanical properties of three thermally modified bamboo species using spent engine oil as medium and got promising results.

Jimenez said he is excited about the possible applications of TM in the wood-based sector.

“Although this is a mature technology in some countries, the process needs to be studied locally since our small and medium enterprises can’t afford to buy imported TM equipment. Even if we can buy equipment from them, we still need to check how wood/bamboo species respond to the procedure,” he said. – DOST release