Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cell Walls in Wood Crack Like Concrete

Credit: PixieMe/Adobe

Credit: PixieMe/Adobe

By Adya Singh & Ramesh Chavan

The discovery that nanometre-scale cracks form in the cell walls of wood can be exploited to engineer high-performance floorboards from soft woods such as pine.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

While taking a walk on a concreted footpath you may have noticed the presence of cracks of varying dimensions, ranging from those just visible to the unaided eye to some of much larger dimensions. If you take a closer look at the fine cracks in the footpath you will find that they follow a distinct, sinuous course along their length.

Our work on nanocracks in wood cell walls, visible only when viewed with a transmission electron microscope, suggests a similarity with cracks initiating in concrete. The cracks in both materials initiate and propagate along the interface between hard and soft components.

While much research on crack initiation and propagation has been carried out in concrete materials, little is understood about the nanometre-scale cracks in wood cell walls, which we think also develop at molecular interfaces.

Cracking of Concrete

Understanding crack propagation is an area of science in itself. Knowledge of the underlying principles of crack propagation can serve as a fundamental base for probing defects in construction materials such as concrete.

Concrete is a heterogenous material created from a mixture of gravel particles, cement and water. Thus, upon drying, concrete exhibits complex mechanical and physical behaviour.

Although hardened concrete possesses good compressive strength it is poor in tensile...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.