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Institute of

HF Wood Research


Identification references of wood species from charcoal

Aufnahme einer Holzkohle mit dem 3D-Aufichtmikroskop
© Thünen-Institut/Valentina Zemke

Identification of wood species from charcoal/ briquettes as related to illegal logging

Charcoal is a regularly imported material into the German market. The woods, which are used for charcoal production are often harvested from natural forests in South America and Central Africa. Basic investigations of the Thünen Institute have shown that many European trade assortments are misclassified and regularly contain tropical wood species.

Background and Objective

Based on the investigation and experience of the Thünen-Institute references for the identification of tropical timbers in charcoal need to be extended. Furthermore, the methods for their identification are more difficult as compared to the “classic” anatomical wood identification of solid woods. A successful method using 3D-Refelected Light Microscopy is currently established at the Thuenen Institute.

The aim of the project, that is supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), is to use the results to develop the methodological and scientific basis for the determination and testing of charcoal in accordance with the requirements and guidelines of the European Timber Trade Regulation (EUTR).

Target Group

Customers, charcoal trade, NGO´s, consumers, national and international research institutes


- Analyses and description of wood anatomical structures of wood species internationally used for production on the basis of 3D Reflected Light Microscopy.

- Studies of controlled carbonization processes for a systematic detection of artefacts related to the diagnostic anatomical structures of charcoal by using 3D Reflected Light Microscopy.

- Preparation of a list of anatomical features for the identification of charcoal and regional classification of boreal-/temperate latitudes and subtropical-/ tropical latitudes of charcoal.

- Development of digital datasheets based on the evaluation of anatomical features as references for international research institutes, customs controls, etc., which are involved in the identification and control of charcoal and charcoal briquettes.

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Universität Hamburg
    (Hamburg, Deutschland)
  • CITEmadera
    (Lima, Peru)
  • Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira
    (Pereira, Kolumbien)
  • Chinese Academy of Forestry
    (Peking, Volksrepublik China)
  • Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences
    (Ha Noi City, Vietnam)

Funding Body

  • German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU)
    (national, öffentlich)


7.2018 - 8.2022

More Information

Project funding number: DBU-Aktenzeichen: 20018/555 (Promotionsstipendium)
Project status: ongoing

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