Big Grant Funding Awarded to Tiniest, Mightiest Building Material of the Future

The Forest Products Laboratory is pleased to announce the littlest big news that could help change how we fabricate the world around us.

CN-enhanced concrete looks and acts like traditional concrete but is much stronger. Photo by Michael Goergen, U.S. Endowment.

USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in collaboration with P3Nano from the US Endowment for Forests and Communities(U.S. Endowment) announced ten awards this month for projects ranging from one to five years, totaling $2.4 million in grants to further nanocellulose research.

The partnership funds research to evaluate the safety of cellulosic nanomaterials (CNs), develop process improvements to reduce production cost, and provide new market opportunities for advanced applications. Everything from biodegradable snack packaging to concrete additives that significantly reduce CO2 emissions are possible with CN innovation.

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Cellulose Nanocomposites Workshop: From Raw Materials to Applications

Are you interested in learning about the exciting opportunities that lignocellulosic nanomaterials and nanocomposites offer? If so, we invite you to attend a workshop at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to hear from some of the most experienced people in the field and tour the Lab’s cellulose nanomaterials pilot facility.

“Cellulose Nanocomposites Workshop: From Raw Materials to Applications”
Tuesday, May 16th – 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
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Nanocellulose Used in Medical Devices


Transmission electron microscopy image of freeze-dried CNCs that were redispersed in deionized water and stained with aqueous uranyl acetate.

Transmission electron microscopy image of freeze-dried CNCs that were redispersed in
deionized water and stained with aqueous uranyl acetate.

The Journal of Applied Polymer Science features groundbreaking work from FPL Materials Research Engineer Robert Moon and others. “Enhanced thermal stability of biomedical thermoplastic polyurethane with the addition of cellulose nanocrystals” by Jen-Chieh Liu, Darren J. Martin, Robert J. Moon, and Jeffrey P. Youngblood takes us to the world of nanocellulose in medical devices.

Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) are used in manufacturing biomedical devices, such as vascular grafts or ventricular assistance devices, where mechanical performance and biocompatibility and nontoxicity are crucial. However, to increase the range of biomedical device applications and improve end use performance, improved thermal stability during fabrication and the ability to controllably manipulate strength and toughness without loss of biocompatibility is required. And because these devices are to be used in the human body, they must be nontoxic. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are cellulose-based nanoparticles produced from wood or plant fibers. As candidates for nano-reinforcement materials for TPUs, CNCs work well because they have high mechanical properties, good thermal properties, and low toxicity.

In many cases, TPU fabrication (such as extrusion and injection molding) to make products involves high temperatures and long manufacturing time because of blending and homogenization. These factors degrade polymer chains and decrease mechanical properties. If nano-reinforced TPUs can achieve a higher decomposition temperature, they could be processed under a wider range of operation temperatures and manufacturing times without loss of mechanical properties.

This research showed that higher solid loadings of CNCs in a commercial TPU commonly used in biomedical applications resulted in a higher onset degradation temperature of the nanocomposite, providing a wider processing temperature for manufacturing products to be used in biomedical devices without loss of mechanical properties.

FPL cooperated with Purdue University; University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; and Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, on this project.