Cell wall properties of softwood deteriorated by fungi: combined chemical analyses, FT-IR spectroscopy, nanoindentation and micromechanical modelling
L Wagner, T K Bader, K de Borst, T Ters, K Fackler
Mechanical properties of wood are determined by its inherent hierarchical microstructure, starting at the nanometer scale, where the elementary components cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin build up the wood cell wall material. Fungi cause degradation and decomposition of these components and, thus, alter the mechanical properties of wood. The aim of this study is to gain new insight into these relationships at the cell wall level, particularly at early stages of degradation characterized by a mass loss of less than 10 %. Early detection of deterioration is essential during monitoring of timber structures as it may help avoiding subsequent larger scale damages. This contribution presents results of an ambitious experimental programme covering the determination of earlywood/latewood specific compositional data with consistent microstructural and micromechanical properties. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) sapwood was studied in reference condition and after degradation by brown rot (Gloeophyllum trabeum) and white rot (Trametes versicolor), respectively. Ultrastructural and compositional data were acquired by means of FT IR spectroscopy and wet chemical analyses. Micro-structural features such as the microfibril angle were determined by X-ray diffraction. Mechanical properties of sound and degraded wood cell walls were determined using nanoindentation, yielding the (anisotropic) indentation modulus of the S2 cell wall layer and the cell corner middle lamella of Scots pine tracheids. Aiming at the identification of relationships between ultrastructural and micromechanical characteristics, two different approaches were followed. On the one hand, multivariate data analysis was applied. On the other hand, a multiscale micromechanical model was used to derive causal relationships between structure and (mechanical) function for deteriorated wood. Anisotropic indentation theory allows calculating model predictions for the indentation modulus of the S2 cell wall layer based on measured chemical compositions resulting from the degradation process. Comparing these predictions with the experimental results enables to test hypotheses on possible scenarios of wood cell wall deterioration during fungal attack. Identified relationships between ultrastructural, microstructural, and micromechanical characteristics will be discussed as well as the potential of micromechanical modelling in the analysis of fungal degradation strategies and their effect on the mechanical behaviour.