An issue in engineered wood products, like oriented strand lumber (OSL), is the low thermal conductivity coefficient of raw material, preventing the fast transfer of heat into the core of composite mats. The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect of sepiolite at nanoscale with aspect ratio of 1:15, in mixture with urea-formaldehyde resin (UF), and its effect on thermal conductivity coefficient of the final panel. Sepiolite was mixed with UF resin for 20 min prior to being sprayed onto wood strips in a rotary drum. Ten percent of sepiolite was mixed with the resin, based on the dry weight of UF resin. OSL panels with two resin contents, namely 8% and 10%, were manufactured. Temperature was measured at the core section of the mat at 5-second intervals, using a digital thermometer. The thermal conductivity coefficient of OSL specimens was calculated based on Fourier's Law for heat conduction. With regard to the fact that an improved thermal conductivity would ultimately be translated into a more effective polymerization of the resin, hardness of the panel was measured, at different depths of penetration of the Janka ball, to find out how the improved conductivity affected the hardness of the produced composite panels. The measurement of core temperature in OSL panels revealed that sepiolite-treated panels with 10% resin content had a higher core temperature in comparison to the ones containing 8% resin. Furthermore, it was revealed that the addition of sepiolite increased thermal conductivity in OSL panels made with 8% and 10% resin contents, by 36% and 40%, respectively. The addition of sepiolite significantly increased hardness values in all penetration depths. Hardness increased as sepiolite content increased. Considering the fact that the amount of sepiolite content was very low, and therefore it could not physically impact hardness increase, the significant increase in hardness values was attributed to the improvement in the thermal conductivity of panels and subsequent, more complete, curing of resin.
Keywords: composite panels; mineral materials; oriented strand lumber (OSL); sepiolite; thermal conductivity coefficient.