A Lesson in Nanocellulose: Video Lecture Available Online

Robert Moon, a materials research engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently presented an hour-long lecture at Georgia Tech University titled Cellulose Nanomaterials: Plant-based Nanoparticles Growing a Sustainable Future. The lecture was recorded and is freely available for public viewing from the Georgia Tech library.

robert moon

Robert Moon, FPL research materials engineer

Moon’s presentation gives viewers a thorough overview of cellulose nanomaterials, including sources, properties, and applications. According to the video’s abstract, applications include but are not limited to “reinforcing fillers for polymers, cements, fibers, transparent films, flexible transparent displays, biomedical implants, drug delivery, barrier films, separation membranes, batteries, supercapacitors, sensors, etc.”

Pull up a chair, grab a snack, and prepare to be amazed by the huge possibilities this tiny particle presents.


FPL Welcomes Deputy Chief Weldon as Leaders Converge in Madison

Last week, The “Destination of Innovation” had a welcomed visit from Leslie Weldon, Forest Service Deputy Chief for the National Forest System.

FPL engineer Robert Ross briefs Deputy Chief Weldon on the air cannon test.

FPL engineer Robert Ross briefs Deputy Chief Weldon on the air cannon test.

Deputy Chief Weldon spent part of the week participating in a Forest Service joint leadership team meeting comprised of representatives from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), the Northern Research Station, Region 9, and the Northeastern Area. The Forest Service’s Middle Leader Program was also on site for the week and was fortunate to have Weldon meet with their group. Her perspective as a member of the Forest Service Leadership Team and her willingness to share her experiences went a long way to making the big week a tremendous success.

“By almost all standards, I believe this was one of the most successful leadership meetings I have attended,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station. “The voice of “one Forest Service” is beginning to get quite loud and it sure sounds good to me.”

Weldon and the Middle Leader participants were able to break away from their meetings and see FPL research first-hand. The group was lucky enough to see one of FPL’s most impressive tests … a shot from our air cannon. It’s not every day one sees a 2×4 piece of lumber flying at 100 mph toward a test wall!

This was the third straight year FPL played host to the leaders from the three mission areas, as well as the up-and-comers in the highly successful middle leader program.

Check out these blog posts for more on FPL’s air cannon and safe room research.

Encouraging a New View: WoodWorks Teaches, Supports Wood Use in Commercial Construction

Research conducted here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) indicates that the greatest obstacle for acceptance of wood as a structural material is education and technology transfer.

So it stands to reason that if more construction professionals were aware of the applications for wood in commercial construction, more buildings could be made from this cost-effective green material, thereby reducing carbon footprint and improving forest health.


Commercial construction using cross-laminated timber.

Of all commercial construction projects that could be designed using wood, only 28 percent actually are. An annual market opportunity exists for an additional 6.8 billion board feet of wood products to be used in commercial construction, multifamily projects, and emerging tall wood buildings.

Enter WoodWorks, the only national program dedicated to educating architects and engineers on the correct structural design and use of wood.

Through hundreds of workshops, seminars, and Wood Solutions Fairs held across the country each year, WoodWorks delivers science findings in real time to architects, engineers, and other individuals who can put the information to immediate use in building projects. In addition to these large events, WoodWorks also offers free one-on-one project assistance.

From information on the latest in wood technology to practical design tips, construction professionals can turn to WoodWorks for support as they transition to incorporating more wood into their designs.

Here at FPL, we’re committed to increasing the use of cutting-edge wood technologies for use in nonresidential construction. A shift in focus away from products that are more fossil-fuel-intensive to manufacture can significantly affect the health of our nation’s forests, as strong markets for wood products are essential to forest restoration and conservation.

For more on WoodWorks and their partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, see this Research In Progress report.


Wet Wood, No Good! The Tricky Business of Drying Wood

Trees contain a large amount of water. When cut, the wood from trees retains a lot of this water, which is problematic when trying to get maximum use out of this resource.

This below display from back in the day at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) illustrates cleverly just how much water is really in there.

The buckets hold the same amount of water as the green lumber on the table.

The buckets hold the same amount of water as the green lumber on the table.

When FPL first opened its research doors, vast quantities of wood were lost due to improper drying procedures. Researchers began to study the complicated underlying mechanism of wood drying, and eventually developed proper drying methods to decrease manufacturing waste and increase the quality of wood in service.

Wood shrinks when it dries, resulting in dimensional change, but it does not shrink the same in all directions. Research has shown that this shrinkage difference results from the orientation of the cellular structure of wood and the structure of the cells themselves.

This illustration of a cross section of a log shows how a piece of wood removed from a specific area in the tree changes shape when dried.shrinkage

FPL research explaining moisture movement during the drying process, led to the development of effective methods of air and forced-air drying to minimize defects, and resulted in the publication of the Dry Kiln Operator’s Manual.

Properly dried wood has many benefits, including:

  • Minimized insect damage
  • Improved dimensional stability
  • Improved preservative treatment
  • Decreased warping, splitting, and checking
  • Improved machinabiity
  • Decreased weight, resulting in easier handling and cheaper shipping
  • Decreased susceptibility to decay, mold, and stains
  • Improved strength
  • Improved joinery, such as nail-holding ability and gluability

(Compiled from John Koning’s book Forest Products Laboratory 1910-2010: Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments.)



Big Names Build Up with Recycled Product: Google, Whole Foods, and More Using ECOR

Green Building and Design Magazine recently featured an article on ECOR, a green building product developed in cooperation with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), and its growing popularity among some big name companies.

According to the article, “early adopters of ECOR include Google, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Whole Foods, Starbucks, 20th Century Fox, Gensler, TOMS, and the list goes on.”

ECOR® gives architects and designers the freedom to create shapes and forms that would be impossible with traditional materials. Photo credit: JR Delia Photography

ECOR® gives architects and designers the freedom to create shapes and forms that would be impossible with traditional materials. Photo credit: JR Delia Photography

ECOR is made from 100 percent recycled material and is durable, 100 percent recyclable, and completely free of toxins. It is a design-friendly, high-performance composite material with a broad range of applications.

Most days you can find ECOR being produced right here at FPL (by Noble employees and under the terms of a specific agreement) while a larger ECOR production facility is under construction.

ECOR was previously featured on the USDA blog when the material was used to produce the first 100 percent sustainable studio set in Hollywood.