The degradation mechanism of softwood due to the variation of strength was analyzed in conjunction with spectroscopy and chemometrics, where the sample was thermally treated with a steam atmosphere. Near-infrared (NIR) spectra, chemical composition, oven-dried density, equilibrium moisture content, compressive Young's modulus parallel to the grain, and cellulose crystallinity of artificially degraded hinoki cypresses as an analogue of archaeological objects were systematically measured. Partial least squares (PLS) regression analysis was employed to predict compressive Young's modulus using NIR spectra and some kinds of wood properties as independent variables. Good prediction models were obtained for both independent variables. The scores and the loading plots derived from PLS analysis were applied to consistently explain the mechanism of hydrothermal degradation. It was suggested that the variation of compressive Young's modulus with hydrothermal treatment was governed by two main components, that is, depolymerization of polysaccharides and variation of cellulose crystallinity.
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