Wood, a complex hierarchical material, continues to be widely used as a resource to meet humankind’s material needs, in addition to providing inspiration for the development of new biomimetic materials. However, for wood to meet its full potential, researchers must overcome the challenge of understanding its fundamental moisture-related properties across its many levels of hierarchy spanning from the molecular scale up to the bulk wood level. In this perspective, a review of recent research on wood moisture-induced swelling and shrinking is presented from the molecular level to the cellular scale. Numerous aspects of swelling and shrinking in wood remain poorly understood, sub-cellular phenomena in particular, because it can be difficult to study them experimentally. Here, we discuss recent research endeavors at each of the relevant length scales, including the molecular, cellulose elementary fibril, secondary cell wall layer nanostructure, cell wall, cell, and cellular levels. At each length scale, we provide a discussion on the current knowledge and suggestions for future research. The potential impacts of moisture-induced swelling pressures on experimental observations of swelling and shrinking in wood at different length scales are also recognized and discussed.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited