Insights from industry

An Alternative To Hardwoods

Jan Terje Nielsen, Director of Marketing at Kebony AS, talks to AZoM about the need for alternatives to hardwoods and the environmental benefits of this.

Could you please give a brief overview of Kebony and the industry that Kebony works within?

Kebony has invented a technology that allows sustainable wood such as Pine and Maple to acquire the properties of tropical hardwood. The technology increases the life-length of the wood approximately 9 fold, and improves the stability 50% which gives less cracks and splinters. The wear resistance of the wood is dramatically increased and there is no need for maintenance such as paint and oiling.

We deliver mainly for outdoor use including decking, cladding, roofing, fencing and yacht decking. Both the raw materials, the production process (hydro electrics) and the end product are extremely environmentally friendly. The extended life-length of the products means Kebony let out less than 10% CO2 than Burmese Teak.

Why does an alternative need to be found to hardwoods?

Hardwood has better aesthetics, longer life-length and less need for maintenance than softwoods. There are a few sustainable hardwoods but the majority of tropical wood consumption is from non sustainable sources. Due to pressure from governments, environmental organizations and wood users there has been a strong pressure to stop rainforest devastation. Finally the EU has legislated a proposition on banning all non certified wood from the market – effective from March 2013. In order to replace unsustainable wood there is now a need to find viable alternatives. This is one of the main reasons for large investments into Kebony, to realise a future oriented modified wood product.

Could you please provide the theory behind the ‘kebonization’ process?

We are using a very advanced bio-alcohol made of waste material from food production (such as waste from sugar or corn production). This alcohol is impregnated into the wood cells, thereafter we heat the wood to 115 degrees Celsius and the liquid transforms/polymerizes into a fixed form – binding itself to the cell walls permanently. The cell walls gets thicker – hence the improved protection against water/rot and improved stability and wear resistance.

How is Kebony’s technique superior to traditional wood impregnation methods?

Our process makes a permanent change in the wood, whereas traditional impregnation (for example with copper) leaks out over time. This makes Kebony last longer. The movement/stability in the products are considerably better with Kebony and the wear resistance and other technical capabilities are improved. Normally traditional impregnated wood is treated with oil or paint regularly which draws the lifecycle costs up considerably.

How is the liquid produced from biowaste?

With mashed plant parts, fermentation and distillation – in a process similar to producing a good Whisky – however a bit more complicated a process!

What are the applications of your products?

All outdoor areas where there is a need for wood that lasts long, looks good and has no need for maintenance. We also deliver finer indoor applications like flooring, furniture, cutlery etc – but that is in much smaller quantities than for the outdoor market.

How does your product compare to natural hardwoods in terms of durability and appearance?

This depends on which species used. Kebony maple is similar to Burmese Teak both in appearance and technical qualities, Kebony SYP (Southern Yellow Pine)  is similar to Brazilian Ipê, and Kebony Pine (Scotts Pine/Scandinavian Pine) is similar to Siberian Larch, but gets a more even coloration and better stability.

Can Kebony be machined in the same way as normal wood?

Yes for Kebony “tropical wood replacements” (Kebony SYP and Kebony Maple). For Kebony Pine the hardwood of the material is not treated, so that is always delivered in ready-made wood profiles.

Kebony has recently been included in the Global Cleantech 100 – could you explain what this is and what it means to the company?

Global Cleantech 100 (where we have been listed two years in a row) defines which 100 companies in the cleantech-world that the jury believes has the most future oriented possibilities in the eco-industry. 50 judges from 52 countries evaluate more than 3000 cleantech companies to pick the 100. For us it is a great honour and proof of that we are doing things right.

Lastly, where can people find more information about Kebony?

People can find more information on the company website:

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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