Old frigate's future is bright

August 2, 1996

Twentieth-century military technology is helping to preserve 19th-century military hardware in the latest stage of a unique research project at the University of Abertay Dundee.

Scientists from UAD's Scottish Institute for Wood Technology are working with an independent specialist in electronic imaging, using high-technology radar equipment to "see" inside the huge oak timbers of the frigate Unicorn, the oldest wooden warship afloat.

University researchers have been working closely with the Unicorn Preservation Society for around a decade to keep as much of the frigate as possible in its original state. Built for the Royal Navy, and berthed in Dundee's Victoria Dock since 1873, the Unicorn has been afloat for nearly 170 years.

Initial results of the new technique for non-destructive methods of detecting wood decay have been so promising that UAD is setting up a joint venture, Woodscan Ltd, with a firm of forestry consultants to market it commercially.

John Palfreyman, research director of SIWT, said: "Woodscan's extremely accurate radar enables us to build up a detailed picture of the extent of decay deep within the wood. The equipment uses technology similar to a domestic microwave oven, but at much lower power. We can literally 'see' what is happening inside the wood, but without damaging it in any way."

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