A recently endowed research chair at the University of Laval in Quebec aims to increase the use of interior appearance wood products by developing finishing products or densification processes that improve the performance of these products, or give them new attributes. The NSERC/Canlak Industrial Research Chair in Finishes for Interior Wood Products is headed by Véronic Landry (pictured), an associate professor in the Wood and Forest Sciences Department of the university. “I have been researching wood finishes for over 13 years,” she says, “and have 10 years as an industrial researcher. My main research interests are nanocomposite and stimuli-sensitive coatings, and wood impregnation systems with a low environmental impact.” This research chair, first announced in April 2017 is part of Université Laval’s Program for the Advancement of Innovation, Research, and Education (PAIRE), which aims to create a stimulating research environment for innovation, ingenuity, and creativity on the part of faculty members. Interior wood products, Landry says, help reduce greenhouse gases and improve comfort for building occupants. However, these products do not appear to offer sufficiently compelling reasons for more wood to be used in indoor environments, particularly non-residential buildings. Certain wood products do not last, or are unsuitable for strictly hygienic conditions, and are not fire resistant. The purpose of the new chair is to spur development of interior wood products that meet professional construction requirements for mechanical performance, fire resistance, and appearance. To reach ambitious performance and appearance objectives, a holistic approach to wood treatment will be used. The research program will examine both finishes and densification and will touch on chemistry, wood science, and mechanical and industrial engineering. The economic and environmental viability of the products developed will be considered, to ensure the solutions are appropriate and sustainable. There are several industrial partners with the university in this project, including Canlak, EMCO-Inortech, Portes Lambton, Boa-Franc and Canadel. Funding for the research program, which comes from the university and these companies, totals $2.4-million over five years. The development of products and processes that perform well and have a low environmental impact, Landry says, will help Canadian manufacturers position themselves strategically as leaders in the field of interior appearance wood products, for all types of materials. Approaches developed in collaboration with the program’s industrial partners will be used to diversify and broaden the use of interior wood products in appearance applications. They will include the use of stimuli-sensitive materials (such as self-healing materials), materials with a low environmental impact (such as aqueous phase products featuring high chemical and mechanical performance) and high-speed polymerization processes for wood surface densification. The program will provide training for at least 21 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the chemistry of wood finishing and densification products, and in wood densification processes. Twelve undergraduate interns will also be actively involved. They will benefit from a strongly interdisciplinary research environment (chemistry and wood sciences), and will specialize in the high-demand sector of wood product finishing and densification. The training they will receive is unique in Canada and will help address a shortage of workers in this field. Research made possible through the chair will broaden and diversify the use of wood in indoor environments, Landry adds. Projects funded through the chair will all target the development of low-toxicity and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) solutions. “Wood is prized for its low environmental impact,” she says. “What’s more, many studies seem to show that the use of wood has a positive effect on the comfort and well-being of a building’s occupants, just like nature does.” www.sbf.ulaval.ca