There is no practical, economic way to build structures that could stand up to the savagery of EF5 tornadoes like those that ripped through the South in late April, experts say, but damage from lesser storms could be reduced by better building practices and better enforcement of existing codes.
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Take for instance, the research of Lech Muszynski, at Oregon State University. He's come up with a way to use the same kind of woody debris that renewable energy producers are eyeing for biomass power, and instead meld that material with plastic.
Oregon State University announced Tuesday it was chosen along with Virginia Tech to lead a new $2.2 million National Science Foundation-funded research center focused on environmentally friendly wood-based composite materials.
The five-year research initiative will involve six faculty members and three graduate students per year at OSU and a similar team at Virginia Tech.
Anyone in the market for some green plywood or green carpet tiles? I'm not talking about redecorating with an Irish motif, it's the infusion of some green chemistry into the manufacturing process that makes these "green" products appealing. Green chemistry is red hot these days, as it should be. What is it? Simply stated, it is "the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances." Sounds like motherhood and apple pie. Isn't this what we should have been doing all along? In theory? Of course. In reality, solving an immediate problem usually takes precedence over possible problems created by the solution
Composite wood products have had a bad reputation over the years, being considered a low-cost means of using commercial waste or low-quality wood.
That image is changing, and Fred Kamke is helping make sure it continues to change.
“The old paradigm of growing trees for lumber or pulp is no longer the only option,” Kamke says. “Short-rotation woody crops, intensively grown on a relatively small land area, may be used to produce structural products with properties equal to or better than the highest-grade Douglas-fir lumber.”
One day a few years ago, Kaichang Li was at the Oregon Coast harvesting mussels. When the day was over, in addition to mussels, he returned to Corvallis with questions that led to development of an environmentally friendly wood glue.
Li, an associate professor in Wood Science and Engineering in the College of Forestry at OSU, noticed during his visit to the coast how mussels clung tenaciously to rocks despite being pounded almost continuously by ocean waves.