Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Surface properties of wood play an important role when wood is used or processed into different commodities such as siding, joinery, textiles, paper, sorption media or wood composites. Thus, for example, the quality and durability of a wood coating are determined by the surface properties of the wood and the coating. The same is true for wood composites, as the efficiency of stress transfer from the wood component to the non-wood component is strongly influenced by the surface properties of both components. Surface properties of wood can be divided into two major groups: physical and chemical properties. Physical properties include morphology, roughness, smoothness, specific surface area and permeability. Chemical properties include elemental and molecular, or functional, group composition. Together, these two major groups of properties determine the thermodynamic characteristics of the wood surface, such as surface free energy and surface acid-base acceptor and donor numbers. Wood has a cellular structure, the cell walls of which are composed of three major constituents: cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. In addition to these major constituents, the cell walls also contain pectins, extractives and trace metals. The surface properties of wood are therefore determined by the morphology of the cell wall at the surface of a wood element (particle, fiber, flake, or chip), and the distribution of the major and minor constituents in the cell wall. Hence, to optimize the interaction between a wood surface and a coating, or a matrix in a wood composite, the surface properties of both the wood and the coating, or the matrix in a composite, must be known. Methods for characterizing surface properties of wood may be divided into three broad categories: microscopic, spectroscopic, and thermodynamic. Microscopic methods provide information about surface morphology; spectroscopic methods provide information about surface chemistry, and thermodynamic methods provide information about the surface energy.

    Publication Notes

    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Tshabalala, Mandla A. 2005. Surface characterization. Handbook of wood chemistry and wood composites. Boca Raton, Fla. : CRC Press, 2005: pages 187-211.


    Microscopy, spectrum analysis, thermodynamics, wood surfaces, surface chemistry, surface roughness, coatings, contact angle, inverse gas chromatography, microscopy, spectroscopy

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page