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.



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:


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

Contact: Joris Van Acker, 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.


Physical and calorimetric properties of various selected poplar and willow clones

Contact: Joris Van Acker, 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

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

Contact: Joris Van Acker, 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.


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:


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).


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: Joris Van Acker, 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.