Metal adds mettle to wood offering

US Scientists at Georgia Tech are working on a new type of timber that gives wood a shot of metal oxide.

The eco-friendly alternative means that a treated piece of wood resists absorbing water and mould.

The Georgia Tech team uses a technique known as atomic layer deposition that is typically used in the manufacturing of electronics.

An ultra-thin protective coating of metal oxide throughout the entire cellular structure of pieces of lumber. The process involves placing the wood in a low-pressure airtight chamber, then introducing a metal oxide gas. The gas molecules proceed to permeate the wood – they travel throughout it, using its interconnected pores as an internal pathway. As those molecules do so, they react with the wood, forming a metal oxide coating on its inner structure.

Although that coating is only a few atoms thick, it’s highly effective at keeping the timber from absorbing water, even when the wood is submerged. As a result, and possibly also due to other effects of the treatment, the lumber is much more resistant to mould growth over time. And as an added bonus, the treated wood is also less thermally-conductive than regular lumber, allowing it to better insulate buildings against heat loss.