Innovations and emerging technology An emerging innovation in the timber industry is the additional process of microwaving wood to dry it. This process is much faster then traditional ways of drying wood, i.e. solar power.
Why is it needed? Wood contains millions of tiny straw like cells, filled with water and stacked together in long rows. Once wood has been sawn it needs to undergo a long and tedious drying process to get rid of the water inside the log so that the wood is useable.
How is it done? Immediately after wood has been cut down it is blasted with a brief burst of high powered microwave energy. The dried wood then gets laid out in the sun to dry. Then it is crafted into various timber items.
How does it work The intense microwaves raise the temperature of the wet wood so fast that the water inside the wood cells boil. The pressure of the steam blasts tiny holes through some of the wood cells to create better connections between the straw like cells. These connections make it much easier for moisture to escape.
Why is it better than traditional techniques This emerging technology in wood drying makes a process that can take up to a year, take only months or even less. Quicker drying means increased processing rates and reduced costs for the timber industry. Then the savings can be passed onto the consumer. The microwave treatment also makes the wood more permeable which makes wood processing such as preservative treatment faster.
Issues with using timber as a material Timber can be an environmentally friendly and sustainable resource but the way that it is being harvested and used is a big environmental and social issue
Deforestation Deforestation is a major environmental issue in the timber industry. When trees are damaged and cut down it destroys animal habitats which in turn sets off a chain reaction of environmental issues.
Climate change Deforestation also contributes to climate change. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide. With the loss of trees around the world due to deforestation carbon dioxide that has previously been taken in by trees is instead contributing to global warming.
Commercial logging Commercial logging companies cut down mature trees for their timber. The timber trade defends this practice by saying that 'selective' logging ensures that the forest regrows naturally. Most of the time in rainforests this is untrue. Large areas of rainforest can be destroyed in order to remove a few logs cheaply and quickly. The heavy machinery used to enter the forests and build roads causes extensive damage.
Social issues of logging The lives and resources of people indigenous to the rainforest can be destroyed by logging Logging roads are used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. Because of this commercial logging is considered by many to be the biggest single contributor to tropical deforestation These displaced people then clear the forest by slashing and burning to grow enough food to keep them and their families alive. This practice is called subsistence farming.