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Question: Is it possible to MELT a wooden log?

Asked by sausageman to John, Ken, Vicky on 22 Mar 2012.

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  • Photo: Vicky YoungVicky Young answered on 22 Mar 2012:

    I am going to go with no!! Wood is so dry that when it reaches a certain temperature it will combust rather than melt. Have you tried?

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  • Photo: John PrytherchJohn Prytherch answered on 22 Mar 2012:

    No, carbon (which is the main thing wood is made of) likes to react with oxygen. When you add energy to the wood (say, by heating it) this reaction will occur (which we see as burning, and the wood turning to charcoal) long before the wood reaches the point at which it would melt.

    On the other hand, other things, such as cheese, don’t react well with oxygen, but have a low melting point. So as we heat them they melt long before they burst into flames!

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  • Photo: Ken Dutton-RegesterKen Dutton-Regester answered on 22 Mar 2012:

    Yes-
    1. Cover and soak in water
    2. Chuck it in freezer
    3. Put it out in sun
    4. Ahh, my log is melting- u jelly?

    Seriously though- what about if you had a really, really hot source? i.e. Carbons melting point- google suggest that it is about 3500 deg. In these conditions (maybe with some pressure?) would it be technically be possible to melt a log?

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Comments

  • Photo: adamwadamw commented on 22 Mar 2012:

    If deprived it of oxygen, and the gave it energy through pressure, surley it could not burn?

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  • Photo: JohnJohn commented on 22 Mar 2012:

    ooh good points adadw and ken! For anything to burn it needs a fuel (for example oxygen) and energy, so it you deprived it of that fuel, put it in a vacuum maybe, that would mean you could heat it without burning, and so get it to its melting point.

    I had a quick google but couldn’t find any videos of this, but it sounds possible to me…

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  • Photo: JarvistJarvist commented on 22 Mar 2012:

    I’m not so sure… I think that before you melt the wood itself (which is mainly cellulose) you’d have reactions of the wood with itself, forming ever more complicated clusters + macromolecules of carbon.

    I think you’d probably also chemically drive the water (both loose in the wood & bound up in carbohydrates) out of the cellulose and end up with some horrific coal-like blackened mass that just gets ever more cross linked.

    Of course, you will eventually decompose the atoms as you heat, but you may jump directly to a gas (i.e. it will sublime), or even a plasma.

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  • Photo: sausagemansausageman commented on 22 Mar 2012:

    Thanks guys this really helped me with a project I am doing at the minute.
    :)

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