Near infrared (NIR) spectra of wood and wood products contain information regarding their chemical composition and molecular structure. Both influence physical properties and performance, however, at present, this information is under-utilised in research and industry. Presently NIR spectroscopy is mainly used following the explorative approach, by which the contents of chemical components and physico–chemical as well as mechanical properties of the samples of interest are determined by applying multivariate statistical methods on the spectral data. Concrete hypotheses or prior knowledge on the chemistry and structure of the sample—exceeding that of reference data—are not necessary to build such multivariate models. However, to understand the underlying chemistry, knowledge on the chemical/functional groups that absorb at distinct wavelengths is indispensable and the assignment of NIR bands is necessary. Band assignment is an interesting and important part of spectroscopy that allows conclusions to be drawn on the chemistry and physico–chemical properties of samples. To summarise current knowledge on this topic, 70 years of NIR band assignment literature for wood and wood components were reviewed. In addition, preliminary results of ongoing investigations that also led to new assignments were included for discussion. Furthermore, some basic considerations on the interactions of NIR radiation with the inhomogeneous, anisotropic and porous structure of wood, and what impact this structure has on information contained in the spectra, are presented. In addition, the influence of common data (pre)-processing methods on the position of NIR bands is discussed. For more conclusive band assignments, it is recommended that wood is separated into its components. However, this approach may lead to misinterpretations when evaluation methods other than direct comparison of spectra are used, because isolation and purification of wood components is difficult and may lead to chemical and structural alterations when compared to the native state. Furthermore, “pure” components have more distinct and symmetric bands that influence the shape of the spectra. This extended review provides the reader with a comprehensive summary of NIR bands, as well as some practical considerations important for the application of NIR to wood.
© 2011 IM Publications LLP
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