Melting refers to a physical process resulting in a phase transition from a solid to a liquid state. When the temperature increases to the melting point of a substance, the vibrational molecular energy exceeds the stabilization energy,and the molecules break free into liquid. Can wood melt? We will tackle this interesting topic in this article.
Wood mainly consists of water, lignin, and cellulose. Once a piece of wood catches fire, the first process is boiling of the water content, followed by the cellulose and the lignin and cellulose reacting with environmental oxygen and burn. Even if the wood is burned in a vacuum, complex bonds are bonded with the molecular chains.
In fact, the molecules dissolve into organic compounds and methane which contain hydrogen and carbon. We expect that when a substance melts, the chemical makeup should remain the same. For instance, both water and ice are chemically H2O. But in the case of wood, heating wood undergoes oxidization before it will melt.
Wood is made up of long-chain organic molecules which can decompose into products like water, charcoal, carbon dioxide, and methanol upon heating. The wood’s physical structure is destroyed during the process, so the resulting material will not return to the original matter. Because of this irreversible chemical breakdown of its components, wood doesn’t melt.
The melting point of carbon is 3500 degrees Celsius. If it is possible to lower this temperature, the wood can possibly melt. While there are facilities capable of creating these conditions, there is no documented or published literature to back up this hypothesis. Thus, until there is a proven test and science indicates that it’s possible to melt wood, the answer to the question, “Can wood melt?”, the answer will always remain a no.
The melting point refers to crystalline materials. However, cellulose decomposes around 250 degrees Celsius and continues to decompose until it reaches 500 degrees Celsius. After which, it undergoes carbon pyrolysis by about 900 to 1000 degrees Celsius, thus no almost no other crystalline phase in wood that could be practically melted.
Theories in Melting Wood
Some people tried melting wood using a vacuum to eliminate oxygen that begins the oxidation process. However, this method only gained failed results. While the volatile matter and water would evaporate inside the vacuum, the wood’s long cellulose fibers strongly inhibit its transition to the desired liquid state.
Heat breaks the carbonyl bonds in wood cellulose which leaves carbon behind in charcoal form or as carbon dioxide. Theoretically, it may be possible to melt wood using an alternative means. Wood has different components including cellulose, specifically crystalline cellulose which can be melted at 1000 degrees Celsius.
Wood doesn’t have a melting point because it breaks down when heated even in the absence of oxygen. You cannot recreate a solid wood by cooling them like water and ice. Can wood melt? The answer is no. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading this post and you find it helpful. You can like and share, as well as comment below.