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How to Dissolve Wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Dissolving wood has not been something anybody would consider eco-friendly. There are certain ways to get rid of wood, such as burning, but that is not always good for the environment. Scientists at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, however, have shown that wood can be dissolved in an eco-friendly way with ionic liquids, according to a July 2009 article from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. This process does not pollute the air with any chemicals and is an environmentally friendly way to dissolve excess wood. However, this technology is still in the developmental stages and is being tested by scientists in research facilities. It is time consuming, with experiments taking an average of 16 hours to complete, but the process -- which is quite simple -- could lay the groundwork for a sustainable future using biorenewable resources.

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  1. Pour salt into a large glass beaker or bowl big enough to cover small pieces of wood. Shavings and pulp may speed up the process over solid wood chips.

  2. Place the beaker over a heat source that can maintain a consistent temperature. The ionic liquid is formed by the melting salt at low temperatures. However, the scientists at Queen's University reported the optimum temperature in their experiments to be 230F.

  3. Add salt to the bowl when necessary so that the wood remains covered.

  4. Fill two beakers with equal parts acetone and water. Add water to one beaker and acetone to another. Pour the acetone into the water and stir them up gently by hand to mix them together. Add the mixed solution to the ionic liquid in the glass beaker.

  5. Check the progress regularly as you wait for the wood to dissolve in the liquid. Depending on what type of wood it is and the size, the dissolving time will vary.

  6. Warning

    Do not touch the salt as you are heating it up. It can be extremely hot.

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Things You'll Need

  • Salt
  • Glass beaker or bowl
  • Heat source
  • Acetone

About the Author

Alexander Callos began writing in 2005 for "The Lantern" at The Ohio State University and has written for various websites, including Bleacher Report, Top Ten Real Estate Deals and Columbus Sports. He has published articles for CBS Sports, SI.com and other websites. He graduated in 2007 from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in public affairs journalism.

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