The purpose of the Team project assignment was to work together to prepare a web page and an oral presentation for a wood chemistry related item of the groupís choice.
This at first seemed a daunting task because of the broad scope nature of the instructions. A "wood chemistry related item" seems to indicate an almost infinite selection. The teamís first task became to find a relevant topic specific enough to begin learning more about it but also to find something that interested the whole group (and hopefully Dr. Helm as well). During the topic brainstorming several ideas were considered including but not limited to: Conversion of wood to products, deterioration mechanisms, recycling of wood fiber, new wood treatment chemistry, steam explosion, surface chemistry, and adhesion and properties of adhesives.
Next, the team picked several top choices and began work on finding out some background information about each topic and the amount of material that was available on each one. When the group reconvened to discuss what had been found one choice, steam explosion, seemed to become the best option for several reasons. Most importantly Virginia Tech is home to a pilot plant scale continuous process steam explosion as well as a batch process. Second, Dr. Wolfgang Glasser, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies of Wood Chemistry as well as Robert S. Wright, Research Associate, are local experts in the area of steam explosion and could be a valuable source of information. Finally, the group felt that steam explosion is not necessarily a new technology, however, it has not been implemented or utilized on an industrial level thus far. Pilot plant scale studies have shown that steam explosion have a wide range of applications and advantages to methods used in industry today. Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks to steam explosion is the cost associated with the process. The groupís goal is to share some useful information about steam explosion via the internet in the hopes that it might inspire further studies which could eventually lead to less expensive and highly effective processes being implemented in the forest products and wood science industry.
After much researching we feel that we have compiled a rather informative web page on the steam explosion process. However, the applications of steam explosion are so large that is would be hard to include them all. The group has however created a good resource for the background and general knowledge on steam explosion with references to more specific case studies and information for an interested "surfer". We hope you like our web site and that you learn something new before you leave!