Inside the Lab: The Making of Nanocellulose

When people see a sample of nanocellulose, they can’t quite imagine how the clear gel in the vial is made from wood as we know it.

This excellent video from Chemical and Engineering News takes a look inside the Forest Products Laboratory’s nanocellulose pilot plant (one of only two in the United States) and gets viewers up close and personal with this super-material in the making.

Rethink Trees: Possibilities Abound with Nanocellulose

Nanotechnology research is front-and-center these days at the Forest Products Laboratory, and for good reason. The many potential uses for nanocellulose open up a world of possibilities not only for the forest products industry, but also for a wide range of manufacturing industries whose products can be improved by incorporating this renewable resource.

Yet for all the promise it offers, nanotechnology can be a tricky science to wrap one’s head around. This short video from TAPPI offers a simple explanation of what nanocellulose is, ways it can be used, and how it can make a difference in everyday life.

Take a peek. You just might rethink trees altogether.

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.

A “Nexus of Innovation” for the U.S. Forest Service


FPL Director Michael Rains

In a recent feature story from, FPL Director Michael Rains describes the Forest Products Laboratory as “a one-of-a-kind resource at the intersection of many Forest Service goals.”

Rains, who is also director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, covers many crucial Forest Service R&D mission areas addressed by FPL research. Top among them for Rains includes getting “low value, crummy wood” out of dangerously overcrowded forests through accelerated restoration efforts to make “better use of woody biomass.”

The article, written by editor Bruce V. Bigelow (@bvbigelow on Twitter), also addresses new FPL developments in cellulose nanotechnology,  advanced composite materialsadvanced structures, using trees for bio-based fuels and chemicals, and public-private partnership projects through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements.


Nano work at FPL inspires public-private venture USDA Sec. Vilsack announces partnership: "We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology ..."

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced a public-private partnership to rapidly advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial, wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. The partnership is between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology to strengthen rural America by creating sustainable jobs and adding timber value while also creating conservation opportunities in working forests,” said Vilsack. “This public- private partnership will develop high-tech outputs from the forest products sector, and promote the invention of renewable products that have substantial environmental benefits.”

The three-year partnership will promote cellulosic nanomaterial as a commercially viable enterprise by building on work done here at the Forest Products Laboratory. The partnership seeks to overcome technical barriers to large-scale wood-based nanotechnology processing, while filling gaps in the science and technology that are needed for commercialization. Initial funding comes from the Endowment and the Forest Service. The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.

USDA, the Endowment, and the Forest Service have previously collaborated on numerous ventures: the potential of biotechnology to address forest health; technical advice given to African American forest landowners; and wood-to-energy projects that support the growth of jobs in rural America.

Together with partners, this new venture will:

  • Emphasize the potential of wood- based nanotechnology for the economy and the environment.
  • Overcome technical barriers to commercialization of wood- based nanotechnology.
  • Demonstrate commitment to creating high paying jobs in rural America through value- added manufacturing and high value products.
  • Showcase the commitment of USDA and the Forest Service to innovation.