Putting the acid on wood


Acid produced from a chilli-dwelling bacteria may sound like nasty stuff but it could provide a natural alternative to synthetic preservatives used to treat wood. Scion wood durability team have screened almost 100 natural compounds sourced from medicinal and native plants, essential oils, agricultural/horticultural wastes, as well as secondary metabolites from bacteria and fungi.

Research shows that chilli waste (yes - the same chillis you use in hot food) has moderate antifungal properties. Using DNA sequencing, scientists have isolated acids from a bacterium growing in the chilli that halts the growth of brown rot on wood. This preservative only works if the wood remains dry. To overcome the leaching issue, scientists are now evaluating ways to impregnate natural preservatives into wood using agents that can cross-link these metabolites to wood fibres.

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