TimberSIL Now Made with Waste-Ag Silicate
Among the participants (and presenters) was Karen Slimak of Timber Treatment Technologies. In a discussion with Slimak over dinner the first evening, I learned--almost by coincidence--that the sodium silicate the company uses in its treatment process is derived 100% from burning rice hulls. Rice hulls have a high silica content--up to about 60%--and this silica is extracted in a gasification process in which the hulls are heated to produce three products: hydrogen (which is burned to generate electricity), carbon (used in making activated carbon for filters), and amorphous sodium silicate.
Timber Treatment Technologies switched entirely to this waste agricultural source of sodium silicate about a year ago. The material is sourced from a company that processes rice hulls from Louisiana and Mississippi. According to Slimak, millions of tons of rice hulls are available--an almost unlimited supply to support her company as it expands--though the company is investigating other clean sources of the compound.
Deriving the sodium silicate from a renewable supply reduces the environmental footprint of TimberSIL. Typically, the compound is derived from processing sand in an energy-intensive and polluting process.
This new feature of TimberSIL (it should now be able to help earn the rapidly renewable materials credit in LEED) adds to an impressive list of benefits of the product. Unlike chemically treated wood (using creosote, ACA, CCA, copper azole, and others), sodium silicate is totally nontoxic and VOC-free. It has been used in laundry detergents and other consumer products for well over 100 years. Rather than making wood toxic to decay organisms, the process surrounds wood cells with an amorphous glass--rendering the wood unrecognizable as a food source. TimberSIL is also noncorrosive and, in fact, sodium silicate is used as a corrosion inhibitor in sewage treatment plants.
TimberSIL is currently produced at a plant in South Carolina and distributed nationally by American International Forest Products, of Portland, Oregon. There are plans for additional plants, both in North America and abroad. Results of new fire tests (ASTM E-84) and accelerated aging (ASTM D-2898) have been very positive, with TimberSIL easily meeting the standard for Class A fire resistance and meeting California's stringent ignition-resistance standard for decking. More details are available in our January 2009 article in EBN.
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(2010, February 4). TimberSIL Now Made with Waste-Ag Silicate. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/blog/timbersil-now-made-waste-ag-silicate