Lattice Boltzmann simulations of diffusion through native and steam-exploded softwood bordered pits
Journal article, 2017
Bordered pits connect adjacent tracheid cells in softwoods and enable water transport between them. Knowledge of how large molecules, such as polysaccharides and enzymes, are transported through pits is important to understand the extraction process of valuable biopolymers from wood. The main mass transport mechanism for large dissolved molecules in wood is diffusion, and this is investigated through mathematical modeling in the lattice Boltzmann framework utilizing SEM images and 3D reconstruction of an actual bordered pit to compute an effective diffusion coefficient. Confocal laser scanning microscopy is used to find the unobstructed diffusion coefficients in a free aqueous solution using fluorescent diffusion probes of dextran. The effect of steam explosion on pit structure is explored through the use of a simplified model. The importance of different components of a bordered pit is investigated using simulation data, and results show that the most important structural features are the borders. Expressions for the effective diffusion coefficient as a function of the free diffusion coefficient are presented for a native and for a steam-exploded pit, respectively.