Past projects

Past projects


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: Joris Van Acker, 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: Joris Van Acker, 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: Joris Van Acker, 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: Joris Van Acker, 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.

Assesswoodcoat: Performance assessment of coating systems for exterior wooden joinery

Optiwoodcoat: Optimalisation of service life, maintenance and certification of future-oriented exterior wooden joinery by durable use of water based coating systems.

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Imke De Windt

Outdoor exposure of window frames

Both consecutive projects aimed at establishing an assessment methodology for wood coating systems with focus on setting requirements for an adequate performance.

The developed assessment methodology is based on the European (pre)standards for exterior wooden joinery coatings taking into account physicochemical weathering, moisture dynamics and biological aspects. For each single test minimal requirements for a sound wood coating system are defined. However, to predict the performance of a coating system for exterior joinery during natural weathering a combination of these requirements is used.

Based on the criteria developed in the project a model to certify finished wooden joinery has been drafted.

Cultivation and processing of flax as a basis for a bio based economy in Flanders

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Nele Defoirdt

Cultivation and processing of flax

Flax is used for fibre and oil applications, but the different sectors are not involved in each other’s activities.

This project consulted flax growers, the various users, researchers and literature to make a state of the art of the knowledge of the flax plant and cultivation and the common and potential future uses.

A gap analysis reveals to what extent the present knowledge and technology can meet the needs and questions from the flax sectors. Interfaces between the two sectors and common objectives will be used to prepare research towards the cultivation of a flax plant that can be optimally exploited.


Biodegradability of wood polymer composites

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Nele Defoirdt

Biodegradability of wood polymer composites

In contrast with outdated statement that wood particles in WPC are completely encapsulated and inaccessible, moisture sorption of and even fungal growth on WPC is often demonstrated.

As standards for fungal testing of this material refers to standards developed for wood based panels, the moisture behaviour of WPC was compared to that of wood based panels.

Moisture sorption of WPC is significantly slower, but reaches after levels of moisture content all above the minimum level for fungal growth. This study indicated that a specific standard for testing biodegradability of natural fibre composites must be developed, taking this alternative moisture behaviour into account.


Advanced composites based on modified natural fibres - Accessibility and reactivity of natural fibres for materials with improved mechanical and physical performance

Contact: Joris Van Acker, Nele Defoirdt

Advanced composites based on modified natural fibres

Poor fibre/matrix adhesion is an obstacle for high performance natural fibre composites. Several fibre treatments were tested with flax and treated flax being processed into epoxy or polypropylene composites.

The effect of the treatments was visualised by SEM and micro-CT images of fibres and broken composites. Three point bending tests and pull out tests were used to assess the strength properties of the resulting composites.

Concerning durability, the moisture dynamics of the treated fibres and the dynamical stability of the composites were determined, as well as the biological durability of treated fibres and its composites.