Senator Urges Collaboration in Nanocellulose Research

Nanocellulose was in the spotlight last week during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) highlighted work done at the University of Maine to support the forest economy and biobased industries, and emphasized the need for research and development institutions across the country to work together in support of American manufacturing and other home-grown industries.

    Collaborative research and development is encouraged to put these tiny wood fibers to big use.

Collaborative research and development is encouraged to put these tiny wood fibers to big use.

“One of the most important areas [of research] is nanocellulose technology. We have a goldmine of fiber in Maine, which historically has been used to make paper, [but] the paper industry has been brutally hammered in the last five or six years,” said Senator King. “We need a George Washington Carver of fiber – I remember from the sixth grade that George Washington Carver was the scientist who figured out a hundred ways to use peanuts. We need that kind of research [on uses of forest fiber].”

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and the University of Maine have partnered on nanocellulose research for several years. In 2013, a nanocellulose pilot plant was constructed at the University of Maine through a joint venture with the U.S. Forest Service. The plant has the capacity to produce one ton of cellulose nanofibrils per day.

The University of Maine is part of a consortium of universities and non-profits led by FPL who work together to improve methods of isolating nanomaterials, characterize and develop standards for various grades of nanocellulose, and support emerging markets for products made from wood-derived renewable nanomaterials.

Brashaw Takes the Helm of Forest Products Marketing Unit

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) welcomes Brian Brashaw to the position of Program Manager for the Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU). He took the helm in early May.

Brashaw comes to the Forest Service from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), where he served as Program Manager. In that role, he led a highly successful technology development and transfer group that helped a wide range of wood products businesses in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Through the NRRI, Brashaw has had a long, productive relationship with the Forest Products Laboratory in the areas of nondestructive evaluation of wood materials, utilization of urban wood waste, and timber bridges. Brashaw has a BS in Forest Management from UW-Stevens Point, a MS in Materials Science from Washington State University, and a PhD in Forest Resources from Mississippi State University. His educational and career path were established living in Wisconsin’s Nicolet National Forest as a youth with goals in forestry and forest products.

“Under Brian’s leadership, the FPMU will help ensure healthy, sustainable forests that are more resilient to disturbances by creating high-value, high-volume markets from woody biomass,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station.

Since 1996, the FPMU has maintained a strong partnership with State and Private Forestry and other mission areas of the Forest Service. With its emphasis on technology transfer, the FPMU helps accelerate forest restoration, improve economic conditions, expand wood utilization and marketing opportunities, improve economic conditions, and create new jobs.

Forest biomass cleanup

Forest biomass cleanup

“It has been a dream of mine, growing up in the north woods of Wisconsin, to have the opportunity to work with the U.S. Forest Service.  It is an honor to be a part of this great organization,” said Brashaw.

FPL is excited to have such a qualified and enthusiastic leader on board.


JY Zhu Recognized: Multiple Awards for this Productive Researcher

Director Michael T. Rains visited FPL yesterday to present length of service awards to employees, which recognize workers for each 5 years of their service. Mr. Rains also made a special point of remembering awards granted throughout the year, and researcher JunYong (JY) Zhu deserves a shout out for his many accomplishments. Possibly the most prestigious of this year’s many awards for Dr. Zhu was the 2014 R&D Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award.


Dr. Zhu was recently honored with the 2014 U.S. Forest Service R&D Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award.

But that’s just one of Dr. Zhu’s 2014 accomplishments. Did you know that FPL research results in many patents? Indeed, the Patent Program helps convert Forest Service research into usable information and technologies that benefit both the American public and industry. Dr. Zhu is an inventor on 7 issued patents and 5 pending patent applications. Following are Dr. Zhu’s most recent patents:

JY Zhu and Hao Liu – Metal Compounds to Eliminate Nonproductive Enzyme Adsorption and Enhance Enzymatic Saccharification of Lignocellulose.

JY Zhu and Richard S. Reiner (FPL) – Methods for Integrating the Production of Cellulose Nanofibrils with the Production of Cellulose Nanocrystals (Patent No. 8,710,213, Issued 4/29/14).

One of FPL’s most prolific researchers, Dr. Zhu received the GMFAA Employee of the Year Award, Technical Category, for his sustained research excellence and productivity. He has published more than 90 refereed research papers and has delivered over 75 presentations. His contributions have been directed to utilization of small-diameter wood for fiber products and developing forest biorefinery technologies and nanocellulose production strategies.

JY Zhu received the Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) 2014 Research and Development Award.

FPL and the American public are fortunate to have such a devoted and hard-working researcher working for us.

Nanotechnology collaboration featured at USDA Outlook Forum

2014_Ag_OutlookOn February 20, USDA will host a nanotechnology session at its Agricultural Outlook Forum focusing on the implications of nano in agriculture and forestry. As featured in the USDA Blog, key speakers from government, industry, and academia will take part in the Nanotechnology in the Future of Agriculture and Forestry session.

In this session, Sean Ireland of Verso Paper Corporation will highlight Verso’s collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory.  Verso and other collaborators are working with FPL research scientists in the Nanocellulose Pilot Plant to develop nanomaterials derived from forestry products.

USDA is one of 26 Federal departments or agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a federal research and development program originally proposed by President Clinton in 2000 and supported by Presidents Bush and Obama.

Producing Lumber and Jobs from Salvaged Logs and Forest Thinnings

Have you heard the buzz? A new high-production small log sawmill is celebrating its grand opening this week in Eagar, Ariz., and it’s making a big impact on forest health and the regional economy.

The newly named Four Corner Forest Products, owned and operated by Vaagen Brothers Lumber, runs a high-speed mobile HewSaw capable of producing more than 100,000 board feet of lumber per shift. The lumber is sawn from logs salvaged from recent catastrophic wildfires in northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico and from small-diameter logs harvested as part of fuels reduction activities in the region.

High-speed mobile HewSaw.

High-speed mobile HewSaw.

The mill is a boon for the people of Eagar, a community of about 4,900 people located in central eastern Arizona. Located in a formerly abandoned production facility, Four Corner employs 15-30 people directly and supports 25-50 forest logging jobs.

The opening of Four Corner Forest Products is essentially Phase Two of a continuing partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, Vaagen Brothers Lumber, and Future Forest.

In Phase One, the partners worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and several other industry partners to demonstrate the mobile HewSaw in northern Wisconsin.hewsaw1

The purpose of the demonstration in Wisconsin was two-fold. First, to improve forest management by introducing the latest sawmill technology to the Great Lakes region.  Second, to assess the potential of high-speed mobile sawmilling for processing small-diameter trees removed from fuels reduction projects, landscape restoration, and forest thinning operations.

The demonstration resulted in stimulating $7.5 million of capital investment by a Wisconsin sawmill, leading to more than 75 jobs created and retained in Wisconsin’s north woods.