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.


Throwback Thursday: Paper Pioneers

One early major accomplishment of the Forest Products Laboratory and the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station was cooperative research with industry to develop a way to economically convert southern pine softwood to pulp for newsprint and bleached paper.

Click to enlarge in Flickr.

Click to enlarge in Flickr.

Later a polysulfide process to produce higher yields from southern pine and other softwoods was developed, and today the use of southern pine pulp is a multi-billion dollar industry.

FPL also pioneered the development of multistage bleaching methods for southern pine sulfate pulp. The commercial production of bleached sulfate pulp suitable for bond, writing, wrapping, printing, and specialty papers now amounts to millions of tons annually. Results of this research have helped keep the cost of paper low.

(Excerpt from John Koning’s book Forest Products Laboratory 1910-2010: Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments.)

Science Olympiads Put Bridges to the Test

Students from the Science Olympiad team at Hamilton Middle School in Madison, Wis. had a unique opportunity to experience the Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) testing equipment first hand. FPL’s Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory is equipped with machines that can perform load tests, including specimen compression, bending, and shear. Such tests can come in handy when one is attempting to design a strong, lightweight structure.


Bridge test in progress.

FPL engineers and technicians have been offering guidance to the team for the bridge building event, one of many events that the students compete in. The goal of the event is to build the lightest wooden bridge that can still hold a maximum weight of 15 kilograms.


Students examine their bridge design after testing.

FPL engineers met with the team before they designed their bridges, explaining stresses within bridges they might want to consider, and then tested one of several designs assembled by the team. Witnessing the testing in person allowed the students to see how their bridge deformed under the load of the testing machine and to make decisions about how they could improve their design.

The four-student team will be competing for the Wisconsin state title on March 14, 2015. Hamilton Middle School has won the state title for the past five years in a row and is hoping for a sixth consecutive victory, sending them to Nationals in May.

Exploring Construction Using Whole Trees

wholetreestruss-(2)Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) are testing trusses, which provide structural support for buildings, made from whole trees.  One such truss, pictured above, had a clear span of 55 feet and was made from low-value red pine logs. Similar trusses will be installed in a commercial retail building this spring.

This work, which is a cooperative effort between FPL and Whole Trees, LLC, is being conducted to demonstrate the technical feasibility of using tree stems, in their original form, as structural members in commercial structures.

“We’re engineering the tree into structural assemblies which make use of the tree’s superior strength in bending when compared with milled wood. This will lead to stronger buildings while adding value to forests,” said Roald Gundersen, co-founder and project lead at Whole Trees. “We couldn’t achieve these goals without the Small Business Innovation Research Grant Program and the partnership of FPL and lead research engineer Doug Rammer and his team.”

Patents? From Dead Trees?

You may be surprised at how many technologies from FPL research get patented. What is the value of that? Patents are an effective mode of technology transfer, as they make technologies more appealing to the marketplace due to the exclusivity they offer. Technology transfer leads to increased productivity, increased industrial innovation, enhanced U.S. industrial competitiveness, job creation, and improved and lower cost public services.


Patent Advisor Janet Stockhausen and her team ensure that this technology transfer happens each year. In addition to the work of JY Zhu listed in a previous post, below are the patents that came from FPL this year.

Patents and Licenses

Maria G. Rojas, Joan A. Morales-Ramos, Frederick Green, and Thomas A. Kuster  – Naphthalenic Compounds as Termite Bait Toxicants (Patent No. RE44,543, Issued 10/22/13)


Wood attacked by termites.

Jeffrey P. Youngblood, Yizheng Cao, Robert J. Moon, William J. Weiss, and Pablo D. Zavattieri – Cellulose Nanocrystal Additives and Improved Cementious Systems, licensed by Purdue Research Foundation

Jilei Zhang, Zhiyong Cai, and Sung Phil Mun – Methods of Synthesizing Graphene from a Lignin Source, licensed by Mississippi State University