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Commercial trial of RF technology

27 February 2020

A technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency energy to destroy destructive pests lurking within wood products is closer to reaching the marketplace after a recent commercial trial at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The 17 December demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the radio frequency, or RF, technology for pallet sanitation.

The treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests compared to conventional heat practices, noted Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“This innovation has the potential to be transformative in required international trade wood-sanitation treatment,” said Gagnon, who has been instrumental in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program since its inception, encouraging entrepreneurship across the college.

“RF treatment is more efficient and uses fewer resources than conventional kilns and chemical drying methods, and that is not only better for a company’s bottom line, but it is also better for the environment.”

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, the patent-pending, wood-treatment system heats wood in a unique configuration by using electromagnetic wave penetration, similar to that of a microwave oven.

It heats wood from the inside out, first causing the core temperature to elevate rapidly, making it an ideal method to destroy pests that have burrowed within, noted Hoover.

For years, wood-products manufacturers have had two options to deal with wood-boring insects — traditional heat-treatment or fumigation. RF technology is poised to offer the industry another choice, one that the scientists say is faster and more streamlined than the use of conventional kilns and that can help decrease energy costs.

RF technology also can replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide — a chemical that is being phased out — and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets while moving away from chemically-treated wood.

“There has been a real demand to develop suitable alternatives to replace methyl bromide, which is an ozone-depleting chemical,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Dielectric treatment is one of the leading alternatives to replace it.” More >>

Source & Photo: Penn State

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