Beetle-killed spruce: finally good for something?

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Make that a definite maybe.

Alaska is an abundant source of fish, wildlife, mountains, minerals and wide-open spaces. Something we don't necessarily toss into that "abundant" category is beetle- and fire-wasted spruce. But we've got acres by the millions of it.

If UAA civil engineering professor Scott Hamel has anything to do with it, these damaged trees might someday become the source for manufacturing wood-plastic composite building materials right here in Alaska. Think jobs, and lower construction costs.


If you've added a deck in the last 10 years, you likely used planks formed from wood-plastic composite (WPCs). It's been a hot commodity for about a decade. WPCs are considered sustainable because they use recycled plastic and wood by-products. They also don't require the same chemical treatments that wooden planks do. However, because of their plastic component, they are sensitive to temperature, and little or no testing in cold has been performed. That's Hamel's aim.

Read more over at our INNOVATE blog about how Hamel plans to apply newly awarded funds to testing the properties of WPCs at cold temperatures.

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