Acetylation is one of the most common types of wood modification and is commercially available throughout the world. Many studies have shown that acetylated wood is decay resistant at high levels of acetylation. Despite its widespread use, the mechanism by which acetylation prevents decay is still not fully understood. It is well known that at a given water activity, acetylation reduces the equilibrium moisture content of the wood cell wall. Furthermore, linear relationships have been found between the acetylation weight percent gain (WPG), wood moisture content, and the amount of mass loss in decay tests. This paper examines the relationships between wood moisture content and fungal growth in wood, with various levels of acetylation, by modifying the soil moisture content of standard soil block tests. The goal of the research is to determine if the reduction in fungal decay of acetylated wood is solely due to the reduction in moisture content or if there are additional antifungal effects of this chemical treatment. While a linear trend was observed between moisture content and mass loss caused by decay, it was not possible to separate out the effect of acetylation from fungal moisture generation. The data show significant deviations from previously proposed models for fungal moisture generation and suggest that these models cannot account for active moisture transport by the fungus. The study helps to advance our understanding of the role of moisture in the brown rot decay of modified wood.
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