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What are the Different Parts of a Tree?

When you look at a tree, do you usually see it as a singular object? You may notice that one is different from the other, but don’t often stop to wonder why. The forest products industry believes that the more we know about trees, the more responsibly we can manage our forests.

Though they seem very different from flowers and grasses, trees are perennial plants. The trunk is a very long stem that supports branches, leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds.

All trees gather light through their leaves and use that for fuel in a process called photosynthesis.

It is that same trunk that makes trees different from other plants. Containing woody fiber, the trunk is strong and allows trees to grow taller than other plants. The trunk of a tree grows both up and out.

Counting Rings

Cross section of tree trunk showing growth rings

Most of a tree’s trunk is not living. Only the outermost portion, just beneath the bark, is functioning. That living layer is called the cambium and it produces two secondary layers that do all the heavy lifting to sustain the tree.

Cross section of a tree trunk

The outer layer is the phloem, carrying the nutrients from photosynthesis down from the leaves to the rest of the tree. The inner layer, the xylem (also called sapwood), is how water is transported upward from the tree’s roots.

Each year the tree grows new layers. The old phloem becomes bark to protect the outside of the tree. The old xylem becomes part of the inner heartwood that supports the rest of the tree.

The death of old layers and the birth of new ones produce the rings that indicate the age of a tree. Each year, a tree produces two rings, one in the spring and one in the summer, as the trunk grows.

Determining tree age can be done by counting rings from a felled tree or a core sample. It can also be done based on the circumference of a tree, accounting for that species growth rate.

Every species grows at its own rate. Some, like the deciduous Hybrid Poplar, grow quickly (up to eight feet of vertical growth per year). Others, like the deciduous Bur Oak (less than 12 inches per year) or the coniferous Eastern Hemlock (12-24 inches per year) grow much more slowly.

If you’re tree planting, consider how quickly you want a tree to reach its full height. You may choose a quick-growing species for shade or privacy or a slow-growing one that won’t shade your garden too quickly.

Determining the age of a tree by its diameter is best completed by an arborist since diameter growth depends on both species and environmental conditions.

Bits and Pieces

tree branch

In addition to a trunk, every tree has branches and twigs. These hold leaves, flowers, and fruit, allowing the tree to reproduce and gather sunlight to continue growing. New non-trunk tree growth appears at the end of twigs and the tips of roots.

Two basic tree classifications are deciduous trees and coniferous trees.

Deciduous Trees

A deciduous tree sheds its leaves, usually in the autumn. Its leaves often change color as the nights get longer and cooler. In warmer parts of the U.S., deciduous trees may lose their leaves during the dry season.

Deciduous tree leaves are flat and often wide. These trees may produce fruit or flowers that contain seeds.

Deciduous treeMost of us are familiar with many deciduous tree species, including oak, maple, birch, and apple trees. Deciduous trees are hardwood trees and you see their wood used in items like oak furniture, cherry wood kitchen cabinets, and maple flooring.

The most valuable part of a hardwood deciduous tree is its trunk. A tall, straight trunk produces strong, dense boards with beautiful grains.

Coniferous Trees

A coniferous tree is sometimes called an evergreen, as its leaves do not change color and fall in the winter. The leaves of a coniferous tree are its needles. These trees produce cones that contain seeds.

coniferous tree

The wood of a coniferous tree is softer than deciduous wood and makes up the majority of timber harvested each year. Conifers are used for structural lumber and their wood pulp is used to make paper.

Trees and Pallets

tree and a wood pallet

Pallets can be manufactured from either deciduous or coniferous trees. These are usually categorized as softwood or hardwood, with spruce, pine, and fir (SPF) as softwood examples and oak as a common hardwood example.

The pallet industry typically uses industrial grade wood products to manufacture packaging and pallets. All of the forest product industries strive to use as much material from the tree as possible. Beyond that, the wood pallet and container industry have attained a recycling rate of better than 95% of their core product.

A recyclable wood pallet

Trees and timber have been products of this country since its founding. Managed and conserved properly, trees are an incredible resource that still provide new and innovative values to this day.

Volunteering to plant and maintain trees in urban, recreational, and park settings is a great way to enrich the community and meet new friends.

Who knows? You may find a new path in the wood.

A forest path

Wood biomass

Woody Biomass: A Nature’s Packaging Study – Part 2

***Nature’s Packaging continues this week with Woody Biomass – Part 2***

 

How Does Woody Biomass Produce Energy?

Woody biomass produces energy through several methods:

Combustion

Combustion of biomass is one of the oldest controllable energy resources. Combustion involves burning wood to produce heat.

It is a chemical reaction during which oxygen and biomass combine under high temperatures to produce water vapor, carbon dioxide, and heat.

Combustion is a widely used process to generate electricity that is an efficient, economical, and practical energy source.

Gasification

Gasification involves converting woody biomass into a fuel gas. The combustible gas can then facilitate powering engines. The process of gasification uses a low amount of oxygen and when utilized to convert solid carbonaceous materials, it can also produce hydrogen-rich gas.

Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis is a promising way of generating energy from waste. During pyrolysis, wood is heated without oxygen to produce a liquid or solid fuel.

Biomass pyrolysis involves breaking down organic matter into simpler molecular chains using heat. This process produces not only energy but also fuels and other chemicals.  The fuels created using the fast pyrolysis process have the potential to help reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 51% to 96%.

Heating biomass breaks it down into cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose. These components can be used to produce energy through combustion or other means.

Other Products from Woody Biomass

Woody biomass is a versatile resource that can be utilized to create many different types of products, the following are just a few:

Biochar

We have covered biochar in a previous Nature’s Packaging blog post. Biochar is a form of carbon generated from biomass sources like wood chips, plant residues, and other agricultural waste products. It is created to convert biomass carbon product into a more stable form, otherwise known as carbon sequestration.

Biochar isn’t actually a single product. Instead, biochar is many different forms of black carbon that are unique in chemical and physical composition due to the original feedstock materials, creation process, cooling methods, and overall storage conditions.

Wood Vinegar

Wood vinegar is a liquid byproduct derived from the production of charcoal. It is a liquid generated from the combustion and gas of fresh wood burning in airless conditions. When the gas is cooled, it condenses and the remaining liquid is a vinegar product. Raw wood vinegar contains more than 200 chemicals

Wood vinegar is used to improve soil quality, eliminate pests, and control plant growth. It accelerates the growth of roots, stems, tubers, leaves, flowers, and fruit, but can be very toxic to plants if too much is used in application. Wood vinegar is safe for living matter and organisms in the food chain, especially to insects that help pollinate plants.

Wood-based Polymers and Composites

Recycling wood from end of life utility in packaging, construction debris, and demolition waste then combining those materials with plastics to form wood-polymer composites (WPC) creates strong wood-based products that have very wide usage capabilities. These recycled composites have very low environmental impact in terms of global warming potential (GWP), and greenhouse potential. The versatility of wood-polymer composites allow products to be created that have pre-determined strength values that correspond to their many applications.

Chemical Source Materials

In the past, it was something of a challenge turning woody biomass into fuels or other primary products. The lignin present was difficult to extract. Now through thermodynamic breakdown and chemical science, the lignin can be extracted and is quite good as a bio-polymer additive to adhesive formulas and also can be further processed into binding agents, dispersing agents, and emulsion stabilizers. Meaning that its versatility in multi-functional chemical applications makes it an excellent application in chemical manufacturing processes.

Woody Biomass in the Future

Technological advancements in the forest product sciences are finding more functional uses for woody biomass every year. Starting as a sustainable resource and source of energy that can be replenished over time, it is an environmentally friendly catalyst that is now finding new applications in materials science.

As the need for energy sources grows, woody biomass is complementary to other natural energy sources like wind and solar and ensures energy security for manufacturing and production-based industries. Thus, commercial companies are exploring many different types of bioenergy solutions.

Developing the technology to enhance the economic viability of woody biomass ensures a sustainable future for energy production. Its renewable, carbon-neutral, and lower environmental impact is an ideal attribute for future needs.

 

Wood biomass

Woody Biomass: A Nature’s Packaging Study-Part 1

Developed countries, such as the U.S, rely on fossil fuels for energy. In fact, a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reveals that primary energy consumption for the year 2020 in the U.S. was equivalent to 93 quadrillion btu.

Sources of fossil fuels such as natural gas, petroleum oil, nuclear, and coal play a significant role. They’re meeting the energy demands of the U.S. and the global society. However, these forms of energy contribute to greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions.

Lowering the use of fossil fuels is vital for environmental sustainability. Fortunately, demand for renewable energy sources has been rising in recent years. This is why renewable energy resources like solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric are crucial to achieve sustainability goals and mitigate climate change.

Woody biomass is a sustainable source of energy. One of the main benefits of woody biomass is that it is a carbon-neutral fuel source. Using woody biomass can help offset emissions from other fossil fuels. This makes it a crucial part of a sustainable energy strategy.

What is Woody Biomass?

Woody biomass is material obtained from woody plants and has been an important source of energy for millennia. Some notable wood energy facilities are:

  • Commercial wood furnaces
  • Liquid fuel refiners
  • Wood pellet factories
  • Power plants

Woody biomass is a natural renewable energy source from organic materials that can serve as a greener energy source. It is an attractive energy option for homes and industries as it can help generate electricity, produce heat, and be used in the creation of bio-based fuels. These can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

Where does Woody Biomass come from?

Woody biomass material is derived from several sources. These include urban trees, logging slash and residues, and shrub prunings. Other materials include waste from wood industries and programmed forest thinning operations.

Woody plants are short rotation crops that are fast-growing. These include trees that re-sprout after every harvest. For instance, species such as willow shrubs are often cut back soon (after the first year) to allow multiple stems to grow.

In some cases, growing single stem trees for the first harvest produces woody biomass resources. These trees are then trimmed for more yield. Most wood species, however, re-sprout slowly with every harvest which means that overall yield may decline over time with multiple rotations.

What is Woody Biomass made from?

Woody biomass is organic. It’s made of materials from living organisms (plants and animals) that can be transformed into valuable energy. Common materials for making woody biomass are biomass feedstocks – wood, plants, and waste.

As mentioned above, woody biomass comes from trees and other woody plants such as shrubs. Timber is among the valuable forest products. Woody biomass is one of the tree products, woody debris, and residues. These materials may include:

  • Trees that are lower quality due to disease or growing conditions.
  • Cut residues from timber harvest (barks, small logs, branches, stumps, needles, and limbs).

A tree’s biomass constitutes around 25 to 45 percent of logging residues. These residues are less valuable in terms of forest product utility and they typically do not support the future growth of trees. Removal of this residue material from the forest can help stimulate growth of trees and ecosystems that improve the health of the forest.  These logging residues are collected and recycled into bio-energy products like woody biomass.

In addition to these traditional collection practices, woody biomass can include perennial grasses and agricultural residues. From industrial settings, woody biomass source materials can be derived from municipal solid waste, urban wood waste, and mill residues as well.

Woody Biomass as Renewable Resource

Woody biomass is a sustainable and renewable energy source that can be a viable alternative for fossil fuels.

Through the process of pyrolysis, which breaks down biomass into constituent chemical and organic matter components, woody biomass is utilized in the creation of bio-fuels. The resulting bio-fuels can serve in a variety of applications as a source of energy for both vehicles and facilities

Woody biomass is a renewable resource that can be sustainably managed. Proper management can promote carbon sequestration. It can also be used improve soil health and enhance wildlife habitat.

 

***Join us next week as we continue to learn more about woody biomass at Nature’s Packaging***

The 5 Types of Innovative Forest Products – Part 2

Welcome back NP readers! In the first part of our Innovative Forest Product series, we investigated these leading edge technologies in forest product science:

  1. Advanced Composites and how forest products technology like tree fiber and wood waste are being used in processes like furniture construction.
  2. Advanced Structures and how wood products are being used in architecture to lower a buildings carbon footprint and create beautiful design.
  3. Forest Biorefinery and how the biological processes associated with wood can be utilized to create fuels like ethanol and other fermented substances.

Now let’s explore more innovative forest product technologies.

Wood Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology represents a cutting-edge field within the multi-disciplinary spheres of science and technology. Broadly speaking, it refers to the analysis and engineering of matter at the molecular and atomic scales. To put the practice into perspective, a nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a meter.

How does nanotechnology relate to forestry and wood products? Well, scientists are currently researching and developing wood-related materials and systems that comprise different chemical, physical, and biological properties than materials found on a bigger scale. Researchers at FPL, for example, are conducting studies at the nano-scale to explore concepts like porosity in wood, which is the void space between cellular walls, and how to utilize it to create magnetic properties or electrical conductivity.

Our increasing ability to explore and manipulate materials at such as small scale is exciting for researchers in the engineering and technology sectors. Wood nanomaterials could be added to everything from cement to cloth products to increase their durability and sustainability. In some cases, they could even be used to produce heat-resistant materials. Nanocellulose holds promising potential as an inexpensive substitute for non-renewable petroleum-based materials across virtually all manufacturing sectors.

Woody Biomass Utilization

The western United States has experienced a growing number of intense wildfires in recent years. Part of the reason for this increase relates to the fact that these forest areas contain significant amounts of small-diameter timber and overgrowth that prefers shaded conditions vs sunlight. These overgrowth forests are prone to infestations, disease, and increased risk of wildfires developing through both man-made and natural means.

Is there a solution to this dangerous problem? Much of the forestland in the US is privately owned and management is the responsibility of the landowner. As such, some land is managed through proper silviculture and management techniques. Other forestland is left to grow wild because the management process can be costly and labor intensive.

The FPL has been researching the best ways to use the by-products of this type of forestland and woody biomass utilization may offer a viable sustainable alternative. The FPL is researching how to help small and rural communities utilize the potential of woody biomass to power building heating systems and incorporate the use of small-diameter wood in large structures such as sheds, bridges, trail paths, picnic shelters, and other architecture. The goal being to help these communities find a sustainable and economically viable method to manage forestland.

The bottom line: innovative forest products are changing the world

There are numerous ways for industries and communities to utilize innovative forest and wood by-products. In future, forest product innovations will include even more sustainable processes with the goal of helping companies and communities to become more ecologically aware and have a more positive effect on climate change.

The 5 Types of Innovative Forest Products – Part 1

America’s treasured forests are brimming with resources that help society thrive. As well as offering locals and vacationers a place to hike and unwind, wooded areas provide access to goods, including construction materials, paper, packaging, and lumber for homes and commercial buildings. In some cases, forest products can even be used in medical and dietary supplements, and as fuel for vehicles. Put simply, contemporary lifestyles are infused with forests and their many resources.

Of course, efficient use of forest resources requires us to pay careful attention to issues surrounding sustainability and conservation. The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) – based in Madison, Wisconsin – is one of several research facilities promoting responsible practices in the forestry industry.

In conjunction with other government agencies and public and private companies, the FPL explores how we can continue producing essential forest products while protecting against wildfires, invasive species, and other issues related to climate change.

In this article, we’ll explore what kinds of products the FPL is currently investigating and how they’re pioneering a science-first approach to forestry. The US Forest Product Labs key areas of research include:

Advanced Composites

Wood composites are materials manufactured using many different forest materials such as tree fibers, wood flakes, wood waste, and natural bio-fibers like corn straw and poultry feathers. Wood composites can help reduce the production of waste materials and enhance the economic efficiency of forest reconstruction projects.

The FPL continues to find new ways of producing composite materials, many of which are utilized in home furnishings and major construction projects. More specifically, advanced composites are often used in interior paneling and the support structures used to erect new buildings. As well as helping to protect forests and reduce waste, composite wood is light, durable, inexpensive, and easy to work with. In future, the FPL hopes to design composites offering even better durability and serviceability.

Advanced Structures

Advanced structures are wood products commonly used in residential homes, commercial buildings, and transport infrastructure. Typically, these products offer strength, cutting-edge design, moisture control, and a range of coatings and finishes.

Lumber has been used as a vital construction material for millennia thanks to its durability and affordability. Excitingly, advanced wood structures can even help tackle climate change thanks to their ability to store carbon and be recylced. As such, wood carries a lower environmental footprint than steel and concrete. Given the clear benefits of lumber, the FPL continues to research ways of boosting its efficiency and sustainability.

Forest Bio-refinery

Wooded areas represent some of the world’s richest sources of biological chemicals and fuels. What’s more, they don’t require pesticides or fertilizer like other sources of biological by-products such as corn and rice. As such, the FPL is committed to researching how to enhance bio-refinery technologies to produce valuable chemicals and fuels for transportation.

Currently, biological products are produced by hydrolyzing wood into sugars. These sugars are then fermented to create ethanol or other fermented substances. The FPL is researching new ways to modify yeast DNA to boost the level of ethanol produced during this process.

In many ways, this research couldn’t come at a better time. As wooded land fills up with overcrowded trees and wooded waste, we’re presented with new opportunities to clean up the forest and satisfy an ever-growing need for alternative fuels. However, harvesting biomass for the production of chemicals and fuels is costly and time-consuming. As such, we must find more cost-effective ways to remove biomass from forests.

Join Nature’s Packaging next week as we reveal the last two forest product innovation types.

Forest Products: Science and Sustainability

America’s treasured forests are brimming with resources that help society thrive. As well as offering locals and vacationers a place to hike and unwind, wooded areas provide access to goods, including construction materials, paper, packaging, and lumber for homes and commercial buildings. In some cases, forest products can even be used in medical and dietary supplements, and as fuel for vehicles. Put simply, contemporary lifestyles are utterly dependent on forests and their many resources.

Of course, efficient use of forest resources requires us to pay careful attention to issues surrounding sustainability and conservation. The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) – based in Madison, Wisconsin – is one of several research facilities promoting responsible practices in the forestry industry.

In conjunction with other government agencies and public and private companies, the FPL explores how we can continue producing essential forest products while protecting against wildfires, invasive species, and other issues related to climate change.

In this article, we’ll explore what kinds of products the FPL is currently investigating and how they’re pioneering a science-first approach to forestry. Key areas of research include:

Advanced Composites

Wood composites are materials manufactured using many different forest materials such as tree fibers, wood flakes, wood waste, and natural bio-fibers like corn straw and poultry feathers. Wood composites can help reduce the production of waste materials and enhance the economic efficiency of forest reconstruction projects.

The FPL continues to find new ways of producing composite materials, many of which are utilized in home furnishings and major construction projects. More specifically, advanced composites are often used in interior paneling and the support structures used to erect new buildings. As well as helping to protect forests and reduce waste, composite wood is light, durable, inexpensive, and easy to work with. In future, the FPL hopes to design composites offering even better durability and serviceability.

Advanced Structures

Advanced structures are wood products commonly used in residential homes, commercial buildings, and transport infrastructure. Typically, these products offer strength, cutting-edge design, moisture control, and a range of coatings and finishes.

Lumber has been used as a vital construction material for millennia thanks to its durability and affordability. Excitingly, advanced wood structures can even help tackle climate change thanks to their recyclable nature and ability to store carbon. As such, wood carries a lower environmental footprint than steel and concrete. Given the clear benefits of lumber, the FPL continues to research ways of boosting its efficiency and sustainability.

Forest Biorefinery

Wooded areas represent some of the world’s richest sources of biological chemicals and fuels. What’s more, they don’t require pesticides or fertilizer like other sources of biological by-products such as corn and rice. As such, the FPL is committed to researching how to enhance bio-refinery technologies to produce valuable chemicals and fuels for transportation.

Currently, biological products are produced by hydrolyzing wood into sugars. These sugars are then fermented to create ethanol or other fermented substances. The FPL is researching new ways to modify yeast DNA to boost the level of ethanol produced during this process.

In many ways, this research couldn’t come at a better time. As wooded land fills up with overcrowded trees and wooded waste, we’re presented with new opportunities to clean up the forest and satisfy an ever-growing need for alternative fuels. However, harvesting biomass for the production of chemicals and fuels is costly and time-consuming. As such, we must find more cost-effective ways to remove biomass from forests.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology represents a cutting-edge field within the multi-disciplinary spheres of science and technology. Broadly speaking, it refers to the analysis and engineering of matter at the molecular and atomic scales. To put the practice into perspective, a nano-meter is equivalent to one billionth of a meter.

So, how does nanotechnology relate to forestry and wood products? Well, scientists are currently researching and developing wood-related materials and systems that comprise different chemical, physical, and biological properties than materials found on a bigger scale. Researchers at FPL, for example, are conducting studies at the nano-scale to explore under-explored components of wood.

Our increasing ability to explore and manipulate materials at such as small scale is exciting for researchers in the engineering and technology sectors. Nano-materials could be added to everything from cement to cloth products to increase their durability and sustainability. In some cases, they could even be used to produce heat-resistant materials. More specifically, nano-cellulose holds promising potential as an inexpensive substitute for non-renewable materials across virtually all manufacturing sectors.

Woody Biomass

An alarming trend in recent years, the US has experienced a growing number of intense wildfires in recent years. Part of the reason for this increase relates to the fact that US forests contain significant levels of underutilized and small-diameter wooded materials. Such overcrowded forests raise the risk of fires developing. What’s more, they’re prone to infestations and disease.

What’s the solution to this dangerous problem? Traditionally, forests have been thinned out to reduce the risk of fire and keep forests healthy. However, this process is relatively costly and could exceed the value of the forest products collected during removal.

As such, the FPL has been researching the best ways to use the by-products of thinning, helping local communities threatened by wildfires make the most of woody biomass. Currently, the FPL is looking at the potential use of small-diameter wood in large structures such as sheds, bridges, trail paths, picnic shelters, and other buildings that may benefit from a rustic look.

Forest Products = Positive Change

There are plenty of innovative ways for communities and businesses to utilize wood and forest by-products. In future, the industry is likely to shift toward even more sustainable processes, with the goal of helping companies and communities become more ecologically aware and have a more positive effect on climate change.

 

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