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Bruno Clair and Bernard Thibaut

Macroscopic longitudinal shrinkage of beech and poplar tension wood is higher than in normal wood. This shrinkage is the result of mechanical interactions of cell wall layers. SEM observation of cut, dried surfaces showed that longitudinal shrinkage is much greater in the gelatinous layer than in other layers. AFM topographic images of the same cells, both in water and in air-dry conditions, confirm this result. Measurements on sections indicate around 4.7% longitudinal shrinkage for the G layer.

Bruno Clair, Richard Arinero, Gérard Lévèque, Michel Ramonda and Bernard Thibaut

Atomic Force Microscopy in force modulation mode was used to study the elastic properties of the different fibre wall layers of the tension wood of holm oak and normal wood of boco. The method is based on the measurement of the resonance frequency of the microscope lever in contact with the sampie. This frequency is related to the reduced Young modulus E* = E/(I-v2) of the material, supposed to be isotropie. 'Elastic' images of the cell are obtained simultaneously with the topographie images, which allows the observation of the mechanical properties of the cells at a nanometric scale. Layers G, S1, S2 and ML can clearly be distinguished. By comparison with known materials an estimation of the absolute modulus is given in the range 5-20 GPa, but should be considered with caution, because the inherent anisotropy of the materials has not been taken into account.

Bruno Clair, Joseph Gril, Kei'ichi Baba, Bernard Thibaut and Junji Sugiyama

The gelatinous layer (G-layer) of tension wood fibres in hardwood contributes to the mechanical function of the living tree and has significant consequences on properties of solid wood. Its size, shape and structure observed by optical or electron microscopy exhibits characteristic anatomical features. However, we found that sectioning of non-embedded wood samples results in an uncontrolled swelling of the G-layer. In order to assess this artefact, the shape and thickness of the G-layer was monitored by serial sections from an embedded wood sample, from its trimmed transverse face to that located several hundreds of micrometres deep. The results revealed that the initial cutting before embedding produced a border effect responsible for the swollen nature, which is similar to sections from non-embedded material. After a conventional embedding technique was applied, a section of at least 30 micrometres below the trimming surface is required to observe an un-swollen G-layer.