Fungal degradation alters the microstructure of wood and its physical and chemical properties are also changed. While these changes are well investigated as a function of mass loss, mass density loss and changes in equilibrium moisture content are not well elucidated. The physical and chemical alterations are crucial when linking microstructural characteristics with macroscopic mechanical properties. In the present article, a consistent set of physical, chemical and mechanical characteristics is presented, which were measured on the same sample before and after fungal degradation. In the first part of this two-part contribution, elucidating microstructure/stiffness-relationships of degraded wood, changes in physical and chemical data are presented, which were collected from specimens of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) sapwood degraded by Gloeophyllum trabeum (brown rot) and Trametes versicolor (white rot) for up to 28 weeks degradation time. A comparison of mass loss with corresponding mass density loss demonstrated that mass loss entails two effects: firstly, a decrease in sample size (more pronounced for G. trabeum), and secondly, a decrease of mass density within the sample (more pronounced for T. versicolor). These two concurrent effects are interrelated with sample size and shape. Hemicelluloses and cellulose are degraded by G. trabeum, while T. versicolor was additionally able to degrade lignin. In particular because of the breakdown of hemicelluloses and paracrystalline parts of cellulose, the equilibrium moisture content of degraded samples is lower than that in the initial state.
©2012 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston