Relatively few studies have been performed on the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) of wood under conditions of elevated temperature and pressure. Eight studies indicated that EMC near saturation decreased between 100 and 150 °C, whilst five studies indicated that EMC increased. The aim of this study was to identify the likely source of the disagreement using radiata pine (Pinus radiata D. Don) sapwood which was conditioned to a moisture content of around 3 % and then exposed for 1 h at 150 °C and relative humidities of either 50, 70 or 90 %. Mean values of EMC, obtained through in situ gravimetric analyses, were 5.7, 7.6 and 12.6 % with 95 % confidence intervals of the order of 1 %. In two further experiments, the humidity was allowed to rise briefly above 90 % and the moisture content after 1 h was found to be >30 % as in the five studies that indicated EMC increased above 100 °C. The high moisture contents were attributed to condensation of liquid water on the specimen with subsequent evaporation at a rate that was too slow for the moisture content to reach equilibrium before it was measured. Reliable EMC data at elevated temperatures require (1) tight process control of experimental conditions with minimal standard error, (2) specimens with low initial moisture content to avoid unwanted wood mass loss over time, (3) a relative humidity upper limit that avoids drift above 95 %, and (4) extrapolation of data to humidity approaching 100 %.
Journal of Materials Science, 2012, Vol 48, Issue 1, p. 332-341