STARKVILLE, MS – Researchers at Mississippi State University have found new uses for sweetgum, an underutilized wood species.

"Sweetgum lumber is prone to warp and the wood color and grain are erratic, which further limits its use for cabinetry and flooring," said Rubin Smulsky, forest products associate professor of MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

Working in collaboration with Anthony Hardwood Composites Inc. of Sheridan, AR, since 2005, the researchers developed a way of converting sweetgum lumber into 6-inch by 12-inch-deep laminated beams.

 Smulsky said, "esults showed that the 6-inch-deep laminated sweetgum beam has a bending strength equivalent to that of a 12-inch-deep solid oak beam, yet uses about half the material, weighs less than half as much and incorporates a lower value raw material."

Based on the success of the project, Anthony Hardwood Composites has built a new commercial factory that is expected to employ 100 people. The factory is making sweetgum beams and assembling them into industrial mats.

John Fulak, general manager of Anthony Hardwood Composites, said, "The mats are used as ground flotation material at road, bridge, pipeline, oil rig or other types of construction sites. The beams work well to support heavy equipment in areas where topography and soil conditions are difficult and unreliable."

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