An overview is given of the current projects, the recently finished projects and past projects. The master thesis projects and a link to the master thesis subjects for next year are given as well.

Current projects


Contact: Joris Van Acker, Victor Deklerck

Tropical forests are in the focus of international efforts on climate change mitigation and biodiversity preservation. Up-to-date forest management, conservation and enforcement mechanisms need to be founded on solid science. Worldwide, the federal Xylarium (RMCA) and Herbarium (Botanic Garden Meise) are by far the most important reference collections for Central African forests. Still, they can both be considered 'sleeping beauties' because substantial scientific research is necessary to exploit fully the invaluable information sources and to make the collection databases compatible with international databases online available (TRY, DRYAD, GBIF, GlobAllomeTree). In order to renew, complement and strengthen the reference value of both the Herbarium and the Xylarium, HERBAXYLAREDD aims at generating knowledge, through analysis of specimens, traits and meta-data, on Central African forest ecosystems and forest products. Newly generated data will allow exploring functional strategies, growth and the genetic structure of tree species, an optimized distribution map of tree species, technological aspects of lesser-used timber species, carbon stocks of forests and energy content of Central African woody species. Given the high diversity, we will focus on the following target groups: undergrowth versus dominant forest species, lesser used timbers and species for bio-energy.

Woodlab-UGent will put their main focus on the wood technology of these lesser-used timber species with the development of an in-depth methodology to determine the dimensional stability in the first stages of the project. Later on the focus will shift to color-measurements of several timber species and the determination of calorific values and mechanical strength data.


FlaxPreComp: Development of low-cost flax preforms for high-performance composites

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Nele Defoirdt

Up to now flax fibres for composite applications have been processed by traditional fibre extraction processes that were originally aimed at textile applications. Those treatments intended to come to fine and pure fibres forming a strong yarn are detrimental for the mechanical properties of the flax fibre itself as each extra processing step induces more damage to the fibre. Moreover, the strong twist of the fibres in a yarn caused misorientation and with that reduced stiffness and strength of the resulting composites. The goal of this project is to develop price competitive flax based preforms for high-quality composites. To reach this objective, first an evaluation method must be developed to select suitable flax fibres for composites. Furthermore the development and stabilisation of a continuous, homogeneous flax tape based on scutched flax and the optimisation of the fibre pre-processing (retting, braking, scotching) for the new developed process is planned.


I-Love-T: Inoculation of local fibre rich flows for the production of sustainable cultivation substrates

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Nele Defoirdt

Ornamental plant cultivation has two important bottlenecks that can determine growth potential of the sector: the high dependence of peat for the production of qualitative substrates, while the availability of peat is not always guarantied and the raising restrictions on plant protection products. For the realisation of the production of sustainable substrates, this projects looks for the development of an innovative peat replacer that has disease and/or infestation suppressing properties by inoculating a biocontrol fungus on local available plant fibres (reed, miscanthus and flax shives).



Contact: Joris Van Acker, Michiel Vanpachtenbeke

Due to the increasingly stringent energy efficiency requirements, timber frame constructions (often as low-energy or passive houses) can be found all over Europe. Though, the circumstances (indoor/outdoor boundary conditions, composition of the wall,…) in which the constructions are used often differ. This can lead to a different hygrothermal behaviour and increase the risk on early failing by mould growth and wood rot, especially with the growing tendency to use untreated wood. At present, several simplifications and shortcomings exist in the different research fields to predict and avoid moisture related biological damage in timber frame constructions in a reliable way. By joining the know-how and expertise of Woodlab-UGent and the Building Physics Section of KU Leuven ( lead by Prof. Staf Roels), the current project aims at the development of a reliable risk assessment methodology for mould growth and wood rot on timber frame constructions. This requires an overall methodology based on fundamental research and input on different aspects. First of all, as several of the determining parameters are stochastic in nature, a probabilistic framework is proposed. Focus will be on efficient sampling methods, sensitivity analysis and metamodelling to identify the critical influencing parameters and sequences of boundary conditions. In combination with advances in hygrothermal simulation of timber frame constructions and elaborated resistance prediction models based on dynamic measurements, an overall stochastic risk assessment method is envisaged.



Contact: Joris Van Acker

Construction is the largest industrial sector employer in the EU. The “cradle to grave” aspects linked with the creation, use and disposal of buildings, however, create major environmental problems. Construction activities consume more raw materials than any other industrial sector; and as a result also account for the largest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: accounting for some 40% of the total GHG emissions in terms of energy use. Furthermore, construction and demolition activities produce the largest waste stream – some 25% of European total waste (78% of which is concrete cement-based products, 11% wood). Improving the durability of different construction materials, such as concrete and wood, would allow substantial benefits in terms of raw materials use, related energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and waste quantities.
The overall objective of this project is to extend the lifetime and usability of constructions made of wood and/or cement, by applying environmental friendly silicon-based water repellents. This will reduce emissions of harmful volatile organic compounds by 80-90% in comparison with state-of-the-art concrete and reduce the use of biocides in the conservation of some wood species (e.g. pine, beech).

> More info on the project website:


DO-IT HOUTBOUW: Sustainable innovation in wooden buildings

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Imke De Windt

Het project DO-IT HOUTBOUW focust op elke houten draagstructuur voor applicatie in nieuwbouw, verbouwing, aanbouwen of herbouwen. Een breed spectrum van typegebouwen wordt opgenomen binnen de projectdoelstelling (alleenstaande gezinswoning, rijwoning, appartementsgebouwen, scholen, kantoren en industriële gebouwen) met steeds focus op laag energie tot energieneutrale gebouwen (EU 2020 doelstellingen).
De missie van het project bestaat erin houtbouw versneld uit te bouwen (2017) tot een volwaardige en flexibele bouwwijze met oplossingen voor elk type van gebouw en/of set van eisen binnen de Vlaamse context en aldus Vlaanderen een pioniersrol te geven om deze kennis ook te valideren in een internationaal kader (2020).
De hoofddoelstelling van dit project is het brede spectrum van houtbouwsystemen sneller klaar te maken om de bijna energie neutrale gebouwen van de toekomst te kunnen realiseren. Hierbij wil het project de gehele houtbouwsector en zijn toeleveranciers ondersteunen om de aanwezige natuurlijke trend van meer houten gebouwen te versnellen en te versterken (cf. economische impact). Dit laatste wil het project realiseren door specifieke, gescoorde en gevalideerde totaaloplossingen met een onderbouwd en geïntegreerd instrumentarium (modellen, meetopstellingen,…) en blijvend innovatieplatform (webinfo, technische advisering, projectbegeleiding,…) aan te bieden ter ondersteuning van de hiervoor noodzakelijke investeringen.

> More info on the project website:


Research on the wood quality of wild cherry (Prunus avium L.)

Contact: Nele Defoirdt

Research on the wood quality of wild cherry

To meet the demand for cherry wood for high-quality decorative applications one needs qualitative breeding material. Trees from then different families of the INBO plantations in Borchtlombeek and Deinze were sampled to assess the use of some physical and colour parameters as selection criteria for breeding programs.

Physical parameters as basal area, density and heartwood, bark and tension wood portion were determined via differential weighing and image analysis of scanned disks.

The colour of sap- and heartwood of boards was measured with a spectrophotometer and expressed in CIE L*a*b* values.


High-resolution dendro-proxies as climate indicators in the tropics

Contact: Tom De Mil

The objective is to develop highly detailed measurements of tropical tree growth archived in tree rings and to link these with phenology, life-history strategy and response of trees to their environment and climate. The research will focus on African tropical forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and will further build upon the archives of phenological records of the Forest Reserve of Luki and the vast amount of material present in the Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA). Based on latter available information, field work will be carried out in the Forest Reserves of Luki and Yangambi, including sampling and phenological monitoring of a selection of tree species which grow over a wide range. Tree rings will be investigated using dendrochronology, anatomical research and high-end techniques resolving structural and chemical information along the growth trajectory of tropical trees. Combining all datasets (phenology, growth, high-resolution data, climate etc.) will lead to important fundamental knowledge. Mapping this response of tropical trees to climate is necessary to understand the origin of the rainforest biodiversity and to predict its fate under current environmental changes and is also highly relevant for improving conservation and management strategies of tropical rainforests and assess their role in the carbon balance.


Physical and calorimetric properties of various selected poplar and willow clones

Contact: Nele Defoirdt

Physical and calorimetric properties

Within the framework of the selection and breeding of poplar an willow clones for short coppice rotation this study assesses some physical and calorimetric properties of various selected INBO poplar and willow clones. Sampled trees were grown under different conditions, namely in Belgian vs. Italian climate or on polluted soils.

Physical properties are analysed by differential weighing and semi-automatic processing of scanned wood disk, whereas the energy content of subsamples is determined using bomcalorimetry.

These criteria can then added to the common used criteria as resistance to diseases, rooting capacity, soil plasticity,…


Recently finished projects

Trees4Future: designing trees for the future

Contact: Joris Van Acker

Trees4FutureMajor forest infrastructure will be opened up to researchers from the public and private sectors across Europe thanks to this project. For the first time key infrastructures within the European forest based sector, including databases, state-of-the-art analytical tools and predictive models will be integrated and made available via a user-friendly, central access portal.

The four-year Trees4Future project aims to integrate major forestry resources and infrastructures, to provide the European forest-based and wider research community with easy and comprehensive access to currently scattered sources of information and expertise. Woodlab gives access to the X-ray tomography scanner and the DSC-TGA equipment (see Equipment page).

The project will create a centralized access point via its web portal to major European databases in the area of forest genetics and forest ecology, and start to develop common protocols and reference standards for traits and species. Calls for transnational access will be made, so that researchers can take advantage of the joint expertise, services and data of the 28 partners in the project. (source:

> more info on the project website:


A combined experimental and modeling approach of the hygro-mechanical behavior of wood-based panels

Contact: Wanzhao Li

Moisture dynamics

Wood-based panels are increasingly used in the building industry both for outdoor as well as indoor applications, more specifically as roof and wall sheathing. These wood-based panels are as such exposed to a whole range of environmental conditions in service. Their structural bearing capacity is well-known in standard mean circumstances, but the influence of temperature, moisture, related dimensional changes and possible subsequent biodegradation on their strength is only revealed to a limited level based on fundamental knowledge.

A crucial completion to the research on wood-based panels, more specifically particleboard and oriented strand board, is the elaboration on a fundamental model starting from the structural composition of these panels. This research foresees as such in an integrated view on panel behavior by modeling the mechanics of these wood-based panels like OSB in relation to the impact of moisture dynamics under specific climates.



Contact: Joris Van Acker

Logo PerformWoodThe project objective is to kick-start the development of new standards to enable the service life specification of wood and wood based materials for construction. This is critical to ensure the future sustainable use of European forests, to ensure customers of wood products get satisfactory and reliable products and to provide supplementary evidence for life cycle evaluations of construction products. This supporting action will utilise the wealth of research data that exists to analyse material test standards (CEN TC38) for their ability to inform on service life and performance.

Historical field data will be reanalysed to extract more information on performance and this will be brought alongside service life expectation information gathered from various user groups. It will connect the material resistance with the moisture risk to inform on service life expectations.

> More info on the project website:


Palaeobotanical reconstructions of Central African forest boundary dynamics

Contact: Wannes Hubau

PhD Wannes Hubau

Charcoal can be formed during natural fires (lightning) or human-induced fires. It is an inert material which can be preserved in soil layers for a very long time. Moreover, as many anatomical details are preserved, it is possible to identify individual fragments. However, this 'natural archive' has never been explored in Central Africa.

Therefore, this PhD project aims at the development of Central African ancient charcoal analysis. Charcoal fragments are collected in soil profiles in natural environments and in ancient human settlements. Some of these fragments are radiocarbon dated and visualised using Reflected Light Microscopy (RLM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Computed X-Ray Tomography (µCT).

Furthermore, we developed a transparent charcoal identification protocol using large databases, wood anatomical descriptions (InsideWood) and the World's largest reference collection of microscopic thin sections of Central African wood specimens (RMCA, Tervuren). As such, we reconstruct ancient environments and we assess past vegetation and climate change.



Contact: Joris Van Acker

NOVELTREE is a EU financed project designed to enable significant genetic improvement of the composition and characteristics of forest products to satisfy the needs (quality, quantity, sustainability, vulnerability) of consumers and the forest-based sector. Woodlab-UGent specifically helps in developing a high-througput tool-chain for characterization of wood material for selection purposes.

> more information can be found on the website:



Contact: Imke De Windt

Moisture dynamics

Moisture dynamics of plywood is used to identify critical parameters in production and composition of plywood to come to better performance related to limited time of wetness. Furthermore, the effect of coatings on the durability and service life of coated plywood products is determined.

An assessment engineering tool is developed during this short term project. In the long run this draft tool will be extended to a ‘predictive engineering tool’ for adequate prediction of moisture behaviour and related service life prediction of optimised plywood. As such this project enlarges the knowledge on the moisture behaviour of plywood on a fundamental level as well as tries to come to a practical approach for plywood testing regarding its moisture dynamics, which is related to durability.


Development of a systematic colour assessment for the optimisation and innovation at the production of oak wood furniture and parquet

Contact: Nele Defoirdt

Development of a systematic colour assessment

As furniture and parquet producers have complaints about oak wood elements in a product with a too deviant colour, one needs an objective colour measurement to communicate unambiguously.

The CIE L*C*hab colour space is the most appropriate to describe wood colour objectively. In this project the spectrophotometer that could group specimens with most accordance to visually determined colour groups was selected, various colour grading algorithms to sort specimens were evaluated and a vast measuring methodology for measuring larger wood samples was developed.

Finally the colour change due to transparent finishes and due to weathering of finished and unfinished surfaces was analysed.


Woodexter: Service life and performance of exterior wood above ground

Contact: Imke De Windt

The main objective of WoodExter was to develop a practical tool for design of wood constructions with respect to durability and service life, based on a similar approach as used in structural design which is familiar to engineers and architects. It was decided to focus on decking and cladding, two major end uses for wood as two test case products to rigorously assess the methodology.
The key outcome of WoodExter is a guidance document “Engineering design guideline for wood in above ground applications”.

> more information can be found in following document.