Wood-Infused Concrete Put to the Test

Repaving a parking lot isn’t generally something we’d get too excited about here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). That is, unless the project incorporates wood, in which case, we’re totally stoked.

Test site for cellulose nanomaterial-enhanced concrete in Greenville, S.C. Photo credit: Michael Goergen

And that’s exactly what happened in Greenville, South Carolina, at the headquarters for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment). A parking lot there has become the largest test site in the world for cellulose nanomaterial (CN)-enhanced concrete, which FPL researchers and partners at the Endowment, Oregon State University, and Purdue University have found to have improved properties over traditional concrete.

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Researchers to Use Wood-infused Concrete in California Bridge

This transmission electron microscope shows cellulose nanocrystals, tiny structures derived from renewable sources that have been shown to increase strength of concrete. Image: Purdue Life Sciences Microscopy Center

Civil and Structural Engineer (CSE) Magazine recently published an article about an exciting advancement in the practical application of cellulose nanomaterials – using nanocellulose as an additive to concrete.

Purdue University researchers, who have been long-time partners of the Forest Products Laboratory, have been studying whether concrete is made stronger by infusing it with microscopic-sized nanocrystals from wood. Their research is now moving from the laboratory to the real world with a bridge that will be built in California this spring.

“Simply getting out there where people can actually drive on it, I think, is a huge step because you can’t just say it’s a lab curiosity at that point. It has real-world implications,” said Jeffrey Youngblood, a Purdue professor of materials engineering.

Read the full article here to find out how minuscule wood particles can make concrete stronger, and the many added benefits researchers are discovering through this project.

Drones as Damage Detectors? Researchers Consider Remote Aircraft as Bridge Inspection Tool

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, nearly one quarter of bridges across the country are structurally obsolete and 11 percent are structurally flawed.

Timber bridges in Pennington County, South Dakota.

Timber bridges in Pennington County, South Dakota.

Researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and South Dakota State University are on a mission to identify effective inspection methods, especially where there are accessibility challenges for inspectors, in an attempt to improve this statistic. The team is posing an interesting question as part of their search: Can drones help detect bridge damage? FPL Research General Engineer James Wacker is taking to the skies to find out.

Wacker and his fellow researchers are investigating whether the use of a remotely piloted aircraft, or drone, is a cost effective solution to help inspectors pinpoint areas of structural decay and degradation. Drones can be armed with high-resolution cameras that allow for recording of highly detailed images and videos, along with other tools such as infrared imaging.

Beginning in early spring 2017, the researchers will team up with the South Dakota Department of Transportation to conduct a drone inspection of two timber bridges in South Dakota. High-quality images from the drone will be evaluated and compared with data from conventional inspections.

The final results of the study will be issued in a report that will document the drone inspections and offer recommendations for drone-based inspection procedures.

To learn more about this study, read the full Research in Progress report.

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta

The Latest and Greatest: FPL's NewsLine Hits the Web!

FPL researchers are hard at work discovering the amazing possibilities wood presents to make our lives safer and better. You can read all about what they’ve been up to in our quarterly newsletter, NewsLine.

newsline-2015-2-thumbIn this issue, you’ll learn about the importance of fasteners in keeping your deck safe, research on wood bridges, a new demonstration house, recycling preservative-treated wood, the amazing things we can do in our new pressure treatment plant, and much more.

Past issues of NewsLine can be found on FPL’s website.

If you’d like to have NewsLine delivered right to your inbox, simply send an email request to mailroom_forest_products_laboratory@fs.fed.us

We hope you enjoy this issue and wish you a wonderful holiday season.

-The Newsline Team