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Supercritical Carbon Dioxide

Supercritical carbon dioxide is a unique type of phase-change fluid that has special diffuse capabilities with unique liquid properties, including high solvency. It can act as an important replacement for conventional, petroleum-based organic solvents and promote more effective preservative treatment of wood.

Brad Gething, a postdoctoral Fellow in the college’s wood products program, was recently honored by the Forest Products Society for his study “The Computational Modeling of Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Flow in Solid Wood Material,” his doctoral dissertation, which he defended last fall in the interdisciplinary materials science and engineering program.

His research with supercritical carbon dioxide (SC CO2) helps scientists to better understand, through computational predictive modeling, the critical development of liquid flow behavior relative to carbon dioxide gas flow within wood material.

With its gaseous to quasi-liquid behavior, SC CO2 can substantially improve the wood-treatment process because it’s more environmentally neutral compared with volatile organics found in the solvent commonly used as a chemical-treatment delivery mechanism.

“I’m optimistic about the development of the technology because it provides an opportunity for the wood-treatment industry to impregnate wood species that otherwise are difficult to treat, but in a way that greatly reduces the negative impacts on our environment,” Gething said. “I believe technologies such as these are an integral part of our progress as a society.”