Effectiveness of Copper Indicators in Treated Wood Exposed to Copper Tolerant Fungi

IRG/WP 14-20554

L Jin, K Brown, A Zahora, K Archer

Wood treated with a copper based wood preservative will typically turn a green color. While the depth of copper penetration can be readily discerned from the green color of the copper it is standard practice in research and commercial treating plants to make use of a color reagent such as Chrome Azurol S, Rubeanic acid or PAN indicator to reveal the penetration more clearly. When copper treated wood is exposed to copper tolerant fungi discoloration of the original green color can occur. Reactivity of the treated wood with the color reagents can also be impaired. In this paper, the effectiveness of copper color indicators in detecting copper in wood attacked by copper tolerant brown rot fungi at early and late stages of decay was evaluated. Neither Chrome Azurol S nor PAN indicator could detect copper in the area where incipient and severe decay took place, even when chemical analysis showed significant levels of copper in these areas. Rubeanic acid was the only indicator which provided positive identification of copper in these samples. An FTIR study demonstrated that the loss of green color in copper treated wood by copper tolerant fungal attack is closely related to the formation of copper oxalate. The finding supports the theory that copper oxalate detoxifies copper and acts as a precursor for decay since a significant amount of copper oxalate was found in the area with discoloration but no visual decay, as well as in the area with severe decay. The results from this study suggest that the ineffectiveness of Chrome Azurol S and PAN indicators may be due to their inability to replace oxalate ion to form the colored complex with copper.

Keywords: copper color indicator, chrome azurol S, rubeanic acid, PAN indicator, brown rot fungi, copper tolerance, copper preservative treated wood, copper penetration, oxalic acid, copper oxalate, FTIR spectroscopy, wood discoloration

Conference: 14-05-11/15 St George, Utah, USA

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