Invented by Queensland scientists, the technology was recently picked up by global timber preservation giant Osmose for further development.
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) General Manager for Horticulture and Forestry Science, and co-inventor of the technology, Michael Kennedy said further development of this innovative technology would add value and efficiencies for the timber industry.
"Many attempts have been made to find a better way to impregnate timber with preservatives, and we believe this technology is a potential breakthrough for the industry," Dr Kennedy said.
"Our research has found that this new process does not swell the timber as other treatments can, and the solvent used during the process is fully recovered, which is better for the environment."
Dr Kennedy said the new process was similar to the commonly used timber impregnation process that involved loading timber into a specially designed treatment plant and impregnating it with preservatives (fungicides and insecticides dissolved in a solvent) using a sequence of vacuum and pressure steps.
"With this new process however, the preservatives are dissolved in a solvent that is normally a gas, but which changes into a liquid when compressed. The preservation ingredients are dissolved in the compressed liquid, and then forced into the timber," Dr Kennedy said.
"Once pressure is reduced, the solvent changes back into gas, leaving the preservation ingredients in the wood, but not the solvent.
It uniquely recovers all of the solvent (gas) inside the treatment plant, leaving the treated timber dry (i.e. free from solvent) and the recovered solvent available for re-use for the next batch of timber to be treated."
Dr Kennedy said the technology was also designed to achieve better penetration of difficult-to-treat timber, such as heartwood of plantation pine, plywood and laminated veneer lumber.
"We forecast that these timbers will be better protected against decay and insects using this technology," said Dr Kennedy.
"Preserved timber is used extensively in Australia for construction, landscaping and hundreds of other purposes."
"Finding new ways to improve the longevity of preserved timber will not only boost industry's energy and cost efficiencies, it will also help to extend our plantation resources and lessen the impact on our environment.
Dr Kennedy said Osmose was designing a semi-commercial scale treatment plant to further develop the new process and evaluate its potential for market use.
"If all goes to plan, the timber processing industry could be using this new process as early as next year," he said.
The technology was invented through collaboration of scientists and engineers from DEEDI, Carter Holt Harvey and Solvents Australia.