The Relationship between the Anatomy and Mechanical Properties of Different Green Wood Species

  • Seray Ozden

    Student thesis: Phd


    Trees are exposed to many stresses over their lifetime and withstand them due to their woody skeleton which provides excellent mechanical support. Wood has therefore been one of the most used materials throughout the history of humanity. However, the mechanical properties of wood vary considerably depending on wood anatomy and also show significant differences between and within trees. Wood is a cellular solid, characterised by a high degree of anisotropy at all levels of organisation and is formed by cells which are oriented largely in the longitudinal and radial directions, making wood mechanics rather complicated. Therefore, there is a need for an understanding of the mechanical properties of wood in different species and in different parts of the tree and its relationship to wood anatomy. This study began with two investigations into the transverse toughness of green trunk wood in different tree species including both hardwood and conifers. Double-edge notched tensile tests were conducted on the specimens to quantify their specific fracture energies and evaluate their failure fashions. The influence of wood anatomy on the toughening mechanism of wood was observed using both electron microscopy and light microscopy. It was found that the fracture properties of woods were mainly affected by the wood density and anatomy. Hardwoods were found to have higher fracture energies than conifers due to their denser woods and higher volume fraction of rays. The results also found that the specific fracture energies of RL and RT systems were around 1.5-2 times greater than TL and TR systems. This difference was mainly explained by the presence of rays which provided toughness in the radial direction, at least in hardwoods, as breaking across rays resulted in spiral fractures of the cell walls. The mechanical properties of green branches and coppice shoots of three temperate tree species (chestnut, sycamore and ash), were then investigated at three distances from the tip. The study also investigated how bending failure was influenced by the morphology and anatomy of branches and coppice shoots. Coppice shoots were shown to be more likely to buckle in bending, whereas branches failed with a clean fracture. It was shown that ash and sycamore had greater properties in their coppice shoots than their branches, while chestnut showed better properties in their branches. It was suggested that this occurred because increasing the leaf node frequency resulted in a decrease in mechanical properties; ash and sycamore had more leaf nodes in their branches, thus lower properties in their branches, while chestnut had more leaf nodes in its coppices. The mechanical properties also decreased from base to tips of branches and coppice shoots because of falls in diameter of shoots and wood density. The results also suggested why coppice shoots can act as a useful structural material. Finally, this thesis investigated how and why the fracture properties vary around the structure of tree forks. The fracture properties of green hazel forks were examined using double-edge notched tensile tests in the RT and TR directions. The fracture surfaces were also observed using scanning electron microscopy in both fracture systems. The results showed that the central apex of forks were considerably tougher than other locations, suggesting they provide the load-bearing capacity of tree forks. It was shown that the increased toughness was related to both higher wood density and an interlocking wood grain pattern. Interestingly, the TR fracture system was found to be tougher than the RT fracture system at the central apex of forks, probably related to the orientation of the fibres. These results provide insight into the relationship between wood mechanics and anatomy, particularly showing the importance of rays. They can also help us understand how our ancestors shaped wood and designed tools and how we could design better structures.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorAnthony Ennos (Supervisor) & Paul Mummery (Supervisor)


    • Green wood, toughness, specific fracture energy and wood rays

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