AbstractThe high temperature treatment of wood is one of the alternatives to chemical treatment. During this process, the wood is heated to higher temperatures than those of conventional drying. The wood structure changes due to decomposition of hemicelluloses, ramification of lignin, and crystallization of cellulose. The wood becomes less hygroscopic. These changes improve the dimensional stability of wood, increase its resistance to micro-organisms, darken its color, and modify its hardness. However, wood also might loose some of its elasticity. Consequently, the heat treatment conditions have to be optimized. Therefore, it is important to understand the transformation of the chemical structure of wood caused by the treatment. In this study, the modification of the surface composition of the wood was followed with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and inverse gas chromatography (IGC) under different experimental conditions. The effect of maximum treatment temperatures on the chemical composition of Canadian birch and aspen as well as the correlations between their chemical transformation and different mechanical properties are presented. FTIR analysis results showed that the heat treatment affected the chemical composition of birch more compared to that of aspen. The results of IGC tests illustrated that the surfaces of the aspen and birch became more basic with heat treatment. The mechanical properties were affected by degradation of hemicellulose, ramification of lignin and cellulose crystallization.