What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

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What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

#1  Postby jamest » Mar 10, 2017 4:07 pm

A pretty rubbish question, I know, but I happened to overhear a conversation about it in the sauna and now I want to know the answer as they didn't know: what happens to a piece of wood if you heat it within a vacuum? Presumably to a temperature where it would normally set fire and burn.
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Re: What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

#2  Postby newolder » Mar 10, 2017 4:14 pm


ETA A vacuum would not support combustion for obvious reasons.
Last edited by newolder on Mar 10, 2017 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

#3  Postby LucidFlight » Mar 10, 2017 4:18 pm

Here's my layperson's guess: without an atmosphere of oxygen, the stuff that makes up wood will either melt or react with the other stuff, depending on the chemistry. Eventually, everything will break apart into gas and, eventually, plasma.


Aaaand... I found something on Reddit:

Heating a complex composite (a mixture of different materials) like wood will cause the components to either melt individually, react or decompose. The polymers that make up wood (cellulose, hemocellulose and lignin mainly) are made up of sugar or lignol units that contain oxygen... excessive heat will cause these units to decompose to form their most stable configurations: singular, gaseous molecules like CO2 and H2O, or simple elemental deposits like carbon will form, their ratio dictated by the ratio of the elements in the wood itself.

https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/com ... _a_vacuum/


You may end up with charcoal.
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Re: What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

#4  Postby Tero » Mar 10, 2017 4:59 pm

You can pyrolyze wood, or paper. Some chemical reactions take place, the carbohydrate components of the wood giving smaller molecules. Pyrolysis is in an oven with little air, you can run N2 or other inert gas thru it. You can collect the distillate.

This paper dealt with the oils only
http://www.industrial.combustion.ifrf.n ... paperId=70

Oils and phenols are obtained from lignin.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 349290017K

The wood contains turpentine as well. Heating will vaporize it, so it will land somewhere inside an closed container. Things like pinene, a turpentine component.
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Re: What happens to heated wood in a vacuum?

#5  Postby crank » Mar 10, 2017 10:39 pm

This guy is great, very funny and smart, unfortunately Canadian. This video is quite relevant, and it's cool what he does.

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