FPL Scientist and UW-Madison Bring Science and Art Together

Alex Wiedenhoeft invention contributes to new Audubon Exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art


Detail of Carolina Parrots from The Birds of America, John James Audubon. Photo courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art

Alex Wiedenhoeft has contributed so much of his hard work and knowledge to the Forest Products Laboratory in the more than 20 years he has been with us. One of his most useful inventions is the XyloTron, a desktop device that provides high-resolution images of wood.

In his effort to make the XyloTron less costly and more portable, Alex also developed the XyloPhone, a small device that attaches to a smartphone and provides the same resolution as the much larger XyloTron.

In just a few months, the Xylophone has contributed greatly to the ability of scientists in the field to identify and photograph wood. But not just wood.

Artist Emily Arthur, associate professor in the UW-Madison art department, learned about the XyloPhone through her colleague Anne Pringle, professor of Botany at UW-Madison, who studies lichens and fungi in her lab. During Emily’s ongoing collaborative research with Robin Rider, curator of special collections, Memorial Library, the XyloPhone became a way to examine rare books and works on paper.

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Forest Products Laboratory Says Good-Bye to Director Dr. Christopher Risbrudt

Dr. Christopher Risbrudt FPL Station Director, September 2001 to April 2011
USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) says good-bye to esteemed station director, Dr. Christopher Risbrudt, and dearly regarded community member.

From September 2001 to April 2011, Dr. Risbrudt served as FPL’s director. Passionate about his work and the future of the lab, he explained during a 2011 interview that the ten years he spent as FPL director were “among the most rewarding of my career, and while there is probably never a good time to retire, this feels like the right time because FPL seems well-positioned to move forward.”

Risbrudt’s leadership left FPL with a strong legacy. Under his direction, research at FPL focused on the sustainability of wood and wood products development and improving forest health. He also streamlined the laboratory’s work into five broad future-oriented areas: (biorefiningnanotechnologyadvanced structuresadvanced composites, and underutilized woody biomass) and encouraged collaborative research efforts and technology transfer activities.

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More to the Story – From Forgotten to the Doors of the Capitol of Democracy

FPL’s vintage lumber arrives in Washington D.C. and is unloaded by the skilled carpenters of the Architect of the Capitol. Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol

Robert Ross & Shayne Martin USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

A year ago, the Forest Products Laboratory staff received a unique request.

That request came through a relationship built on cooperative research between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). This connection resulted in an amazing story of a 3,000-lb stack of legacy mahogany and other vintage lumber of incalculable value being used in the restoration of many historical wood objects at the U.S. Capitol building.

While our country reflects on the attack of January 6, 2021, which resulted in the damage or destruction of many treasured historical artifacts, we also reflect on the story of the wood used to repair what was thought to be irreplaceable. That story shone as a bright light and sign of hope in an otherwise dark situation.

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FPL Scientist Reflects on 20 Years with the Lab

Charles Frihart – or Chuck, as he prefers to be called – has just retired after 20 years with the Forest Products Laboratory. Before that, he worked in industry even longer. The total experience has left him with a unique perspective.

Charles Frihart at work in the Forest Products Laboratory

“Before FPL, I spent most of my time in New Jersey,” Chuck reminisced. Even though he lived and worked there for most of his career, Chuck says that he and his family always said we were temporary residents of New Jersey, “because we always considered Wisconsin home.”

Chuck started out working for a pulp and paper company. He then joined Henkel, which is the world’s largest adhesive company.

Chuck says he was happy to have the opportunity to return to Wisconsin in 2001 to work at FPL. His job was to modernize the wood adhesive group through his knowledge of adhesives in non-wood fields.

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FPL Scientists’ Work on Moldable Wood Is Featured on the Cover of Science

The article “Lightweight Strong Moldable Wood Via Cell Wall Engineering as a Sustainable Structural Material,” coauthored by Forest Products Laboratory research scientists Junyong Zhu, Vina Yang, and Marco Lo Ricco, with lead author Prof. Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland-College Park, was published in the Oct. 22, 2021 issue of Science Magazine as the cover article.

The Moldable Wood issue of Science

“In this work,” the article states, “we demonstrate how cell wall engineering can render wood foldable and moldable while simultaneously improving its mechanical properties – endowing wood with a structural versatility previously limited to plastics and metals.”

Junyong Zhu – or JY, as he is known among his colleagues – specializes in fiber and chemical sciences. One of his many research specialties includes the chemical modification of wood for advanced applications.

“It is well known that wood is an inherently sustainable material,” said JY. “Using wood stores carbon, to reduce its footprint. Moldable wood has the potential to replace many metals for structural applications, thereby reducing or eliminating the CO2 produced when processing metal materials.  

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