Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Tim G. Rials

Committee Members

David P. Harper, Paul D. Frymier


Wood composites are widely used in construction applications because of their superior dimensional and structural attributes over raw wood products. However, current wood composite manufacturing practices, which rely on thermal-curing of adhesives, are expensive, energy intensive, time consuming and are prone to manufacturing defects. Use of radiation curable adhesives (RCAs) could potentially answer all of these issues. Specifically, use of electron-beam (e-beam) radiation has been increasing in areas of research and industry where rapid, low-temperature polymerization is required and low energy consumption is desired. For e-beams to be used in wood composites, however, it must be determined whether or not the wood is structurally impacted by irradiation, and to what extent. Maple beams irradiated with a range of e-beam dosages were studied in three-point bend tests to assess the changes in bulk properties of the wood, and were further studied with infrared spectroscopy to identify chemical changes resulting from the radiation treatments. Also, dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) was performed on maple veneers treated with the same doses of radiation to characterize changes in the viscoelastic properties. Furthermore, while RCAs and their curing have been studied, it is important to understand if the presence of wood will impede the polymerization of these adhesives, and to what extent. Maple veneers impregnated with one of two resins were cured with the same e-beam dosages and investigated by means of DMA and FTIR spectroscopy. Swelling tests were conducted to detect interaction between the resins and the wood, which would indicate good interfacial bonding in the composite matrix. Notable loss of strength was observed in the irradiated wood, especially at 180kGy. Monitoring the glass transition temperature (Tg) and activation energy (Ea) derived from DMA revealed that the most destructive trends in the wood began around 80kGy. Cure of resins in the composites was hindered by the presence of the wood, but both resins did eventually reach complete cure at doses higher than what the neat resins required. Interaction between the resins and the wood was evident. In the end, results indicate that there is a range of radiation dosages in which the resin in a wood composite can be cured without destroying the structural integrity of the wood.

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