Method for Producing Graphene from Lignin Awarded Patent

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Zhiyong Cai, with industrial and academic partners from Domtar Corporation and Mississippi State University, was granted a patent on June 2, 2020 for their method of synthesizing graphene from lignin.   

Zhiyong Cai – Supervisory Materials Research Engineer

Graphene is one of the most promising materials of the future. Its potential to be implemented in tech manufacturing is huge, from medicine to medical devices, electronics to batteries, environmental protection equipment to devices used for clean-energy, and more.

One barrier to realizing the vast capabilities of this material is finding a low-cost, largely available source for graphene. The ability to produce graphene from lignin, as the patent describes, breaks down that barrier.

“Lignin is a primary component of the plant cell wall in most terrestrial plants and the second most abundant biopolymer in nature,” explained Cai. A byproduct of the pulping and papermaking process, most lignin has been used as a low-value material for fueling power and heat. Cai and his collaborators’ process now provides a higher value use for lignin. Importantly, the synthesizing method is not just limited to lignin but can be used to produce graphene from other solid carbon resources as well, especially biomass.

This novel method of synthesizing graphene allows for high-volume production. Cai best explained this now patented process:

“Few-layer graphene materials are produced through a molecular cracking and welding (MCW) method. The MCW technique is a single step process with two stages, i.e., graphene-encapsulated core–shell nanoparticles are first formed by catalytic thermal treatment of solid carbon materials. Then these core–shell structures are opened by ‘cracking molecules’ in the second stage and the cracked graphene shells are self-welded and reconstructed to form high quality multilayer graphene materials at a heating temperature with selected welding reagent gases.”

The formation of a graphene-based material from graphene-encapsulated core–shell nanoparticles. (a) Graphene-encapsulated metal nanoparticles; (b) cracked core–shell nanoparticles; (c) graphene sheets

This new and innovative method has been proven “to be a scalable process for the production of low-cost, high-purity nanoscale graphene materials from renewable resources,” bringing the fabrication of tomorrow’s technologies one step closer.

To find out more about the amazing advancements our scientists are making, visit the Forest Products Laboratory at: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/

Murder Mystery: When the Witness is a Tree

Could this wounded tree provide clues to what happened to Bonnie Woodward?

In late June of 2010 Bonnie Woodward went missing. An acquaintance, Roger Carroll, was an early suspect for her assumed murder but police found no evidence of any crime, and never found her body.  For nearly eight years she remained missing and the case went cold.  It was only after Roger Carroll admitted to his wife that he had killed Woodward that critical new information came to light.

 A witness claimed Carroll shot Woodward at his rural Jersey County, Illinois, home, burned her remains in a huge brush pile that he stoked for several days, then used a tractor to push all the evidence – or so he thought – into a creek. Carroll was taken into custody in April of 2018 and charged with first-degree murder.

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A New Approach to Bridge Inspection and Safety

Unmanned aerial vehicle – Digital image correlation (UAV-DIC) System

Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) researcher James Wacker with collaborators from the Department of Civil Environmental Engineering, South Dakota State University are working on a new approach to inspecting bridges that will allow inspections to one day be more cost-efficient, easier to conduct, more accessible, and safer for motorists and inspectors alike. The journal article, “New Bridge Inspection Approach with Joint UAV and DIC System,” was published in Structures Congress 2020.

Our nation’s bridges have been under an every-two-year mandated inspection for nearly 50 years. The current method of inspecting bridges is accomplished largely by visual assessment often using costly snooper trucks. Wacker describes this approach as “a passive approach that has provided subjective and unreliable data.”

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FPL Celebrates 110 Years of Innovation

Today, June 4, 2020, marks 110 years since the doors opened at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and a world of possibility opened with them.

We could never summarize in one blog post all the incredible advances in the world of wood that have occurred since then. In fact, FPL has produced more than 20,000 publications over the years, all of which are available to anyone who finds them useful, be they fellow researchers, industry partners, or homeowners with a project to tackle. (Many are digitized here.)

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110 Years of FPL: Remembering the Statisticians

In celebration of 110 years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we are revisiting blog posts that detail some of our most interesting historic people, places, and projects. Enjoy!

Statistics is commonly viewed as the collection, collation, and presentation of numerical data. FPL has long recognized that the field of statistics is critical for testing research hypotheses and making inferences to untested populations. Statistics has provided extensive and powerful tools for designing studies, analyzing data, summarizing or modeling data, and interpreting results for many research studies at FPL.

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