New paper explaining the crack patterns on the surface of heated wood

Our new paper on heated wood seems to confirm our model for a phenomenon that remained unexplained for a few decades.


When a flat sample of medium density fibreboard (MDF) is exposed to radiant heat in an inert atmosphere, primary crack patterns suddenly start to appear over the entire surface before pyrolysis and any charring occurs. Contrary to common belief that crack formation is due to drying and shrinkage, it was demonstrated for square samples that this results from thermomechanical instability. In the present paper, new experimental data are presented for circular samples of the same MDF material. The sample was exposed to radiant heating at 20 or 50 kW/m2, and completely different crack patterns with independent eigenmodes were observed at the two heat fluxes. We show that the two patterns can be reproduced with a full 3‐D thermomechanical surface instability model of a hot layer adhered to an elastic colder foundation in an axisymmetric domain. Analytical and numerical solutions of a simplified 2‐D formulation of the same problem provide excellent qualitative agreement between observed and calculated patterns. Previous data for square samples, together with the results reported in the present paper for circular samples, confirm the validity of the model for qualitative predictions and indicate that further refinements can be made to improve its quantitative predictive capability.

My new article on materials science

Here is my newest paper!

“Thermomechanical generation of fissure patterns on the surface of heated circular wood samples”

We discuss the observation of primary crack patterns on the surface of heated medium density fiberboard (MDF) round samples in inert atmosphere. A constant heat flux irradiates the wood surface, and the primary cracks seem to appear instantaneously at a temperature below the pyrolysis point, \textit{before} any actual charring. Such fissures were originally believed to form mainly by the action of physicochemical processes; on the contrary, we show here that below the pyrolysis temperatures this occurs by means of thermomechanical surface instability. The crack patterns can indeed be explained qualitatively by the simultaneous thermal expansion and softening of the hot surface layer, which is restrained by the colder wood beneath. This generates membrane compressive stresses leading to surface instability. Physically, this is a consequence of the thermomechanical properties of wood, which is a natural thermoplastic. In this paper, the macro-crack topology is reproduced by a full 3D thermomechanical instability model. We obtain the patterns by solving the according eigenvalue problem numerically, by Finite Element Method (FEM). We also formulate the model in 2D, assuming a circular soft thin plate bonded to an elastic foundation, and solve it both analytically and numerically. Finally, we compare our results with analogous crack patterns appearing on the surface of square samples, which we discussed in a previous study. We conclude that very different pattern symmetries (orthotropic, isotropic and circular) might be explained by the same model of thermomechanical surface instability.