Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy and chemometrics were applied to analyze the degradation mechanism of hardwood following hydrothermal treatment. NIR spectra, chemical composition, oven-dried density, equilibrium moisture content, compressive Young's modulus parallel to grain, and cellulose crystallinity of artificially degraded beech as an analogue of archaeological wood were systematically measured. Partial least squares (PLS) regression analysis was employed to predict compressive Young's modulus using NIR spectra and various properties as independent variables. Results are also compared with previous data obtained from similar treatment of softwood (Hinoki cypress). The increase in cellulose crystallinity of hardwood during the initial stage of hydrothermal treatment (up to 5 hours) was correlated with an improvement in the mechanical properties of wood. Young's modulus for both hardwood and softwood showed a gradual decrease over five hours of hydrothermal treatment, which is proposed to be due to the degradation of polysaccharide.
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