How does nanotechnology apply to forest products research?
The world's forests and oceans are natural regulators of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trees are remarkable photochemical organisms that produce rich sources of renewable raw materials using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Trees consume carbon dioxide (and store carbon) in the production of these raw materials, which makes forests a major carbon sink.
The forest products industry, an approximately $260 billion sector in the U.S. economy, relies on the vast renewable resource of trees to manufacture products that are indispensable to modern society. American paper and wood products companies produce millions of tons of goods annually, including lumber, panel products, paper and paperboard, adhesives, sealants, and coatings. The industry accounts for 6% of U.S. manufacturing output, employs more than 900,000 people, includes more than 400 U.S. production facilities, and ranks in the top 10 in manufacturing in 46 of 50 states.
We can use nanotechnology to tap the enormous undeveloped potential of trees. The use of nanocellulose and its myriad derivative products can help propel the forest products industry into the 21st Century. From raw materials production to new applications for composite and paper products, to new generations of functional wood-based (lignocellulosic) materials at the nanoscale, possibilities abound. Lignocellulose is one of the most abundant biological raw materials, yet its potential as a nanomaterial and its interaction with other nanomaterials remain largely unexplored.