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USDA Under Secretary Sherman Unveils Nanocellulose Production Facility

Posted by Rebecca Wallace, USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Forestry
Feb 21, 2017

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory recently opened a $1.7 million production facility for renewable, forest-based nanomaterials.  This facility is the first of its kind in the United States and one that positions the laboratory as the country’s leading producer of these materials, also called nanocellulose.

Nanocellulose is simply wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. For perspective, a nanometer is roughly one-millionth the thickness of an American dime. Materials at this minute scale have unique properties; nanocellulose-based materials can be stronger than Kevlar fiber and provide high strength properties with low weight. These attributes have attracted the interest of the Department of Defense for use in lightweight armor and ballistic glass. Companies in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, and medical device industries also see massive potential for these innovative materials.

Forest Product Lab chemical engineer Rick Reiner (right) shows Under Secretary Sherman the new nanocellulose pilot plant.
Forest Product Lab chemical engineer Rick Reiner (right) shows Under Secretary Sherman the new nanocellulose pilot plant.

USDA Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary Harris Sherman was the keynote speaker for this grand opening event, and he was encouraged by the advances being made in the field of wood nanotechnology at the FPL.

Industry representatives from IBM, Lockheed Martin, Ecolab, the pulp and paper industry, and various universities met with Under Secretary Sherman to discuss opportunities for advancing what is described as game-changing technology through official working partnerships.

In a time of tight budgets, the Forest Service alone cannot advance nanotechnology, said Sherman. “We need to build our public/private partnerships.”

Sherman said he welcomes discussion with industry leaders about expanding cooperation at the Federal level to develop effective partnerships. “My door is open…” said Sherman, “to talking about how we can expand at the Federal level our resources and commitment to what is occurring here today.” Such partnerships demonstrate how “we are all stepping to the plate, rolling up our sleeves, and putting our shoulder to the wheel” Sherman said.

The facility will support an emerging market for wood-derived renewable nanomaterials, helping to spur forest-based job growth and contribute an estimated $600 billion to the American economy by 2020.

The U.S. and other nations will see numerous benefits from the commercialization of wood-derived cellulosic nanomaterials.  Development and commercialization of new lightweight, high-performance wood-derived products can help reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the potential for rural manufacturing opportunities, including the creation of many new high-paying jobs.

The Forest Product Lab’s new facility will aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of forest-based nanomaterials.

Category/Topic: Forestry

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Dave Clark
Aug 22, 2012

This is encouraging: given the terrifying revealing significance of all the evidences of nanoparticles resulting from ""Ground Zero"" (the WTC annihilation), it had long seemed to us at 911 University as if the U.S. government would seek to forever hide from its citizen-owners the uniqueness of materials at nanometer scales.

When will the government finally unveil nano-scale ultra-capacitors as highly desirable and efficient electrical energy storage devices? (Or reveal its awareness of the humongous intense persistent energy SURPLUS @GZ?) Batteries are great, until they need to be charged... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...)

Game-changing technologies must exist, and We The People must be aware of them, before they can be commercialized, right? Too much of Our National Forests went up in not just smoke but flames this summer. I sure hope that We The People (and all Earth's living species) are profiting properly from technologies that emerge from Our(?) government laboratories: lately, We've seen too much of the socialization of risk and privatization of rewards, which, like "corporations too big to fail", has long been the dream of all those who believe in and yearn for a system of/by/for the corporations (AKA fascism!).

Jacob Johnson
Aug 24, 2012

I am interested in investing in this new technology. How do I go about it?

Aug 24, 2012

I say this would revolutionize the world. From the research Ive done on Nanocrystalline Cellulose, the materials and applications being imagined sounds amazing. The potential is staggering, and the investment in this technology will prove to be ground breaking advancements in science.

Bruce Hall
Aug 26, 2012

If this material was developed at taxpayer expense, the process should be protected from outright theft by other nations and the cost of development should be defrayed by a licensing agreement.

Good work.

David Serway
Aug 27, 2012

Can you please advise where this facility for nanocellulose material is being done? Thank you.

Sep 04, 2012

Whats the output of the plant? Looks awfully impressive for only 1.7m.

Gary Hall
Oct 12, 2012

This material sounds like it has some serious advantages that we can exploit to create new products. How do we go about contacting someone to discuss technical properties and get samples for evaluation?

Eve Jackson
Nov 15, 2012

For me, one of the easiest and most saleable products might be a replacement for glass in windows and doors as its strength would remove the need for security bars. How soon might this happen?

Chetan Chopra
Mar 27, 2013

I am interested in investing in this new technology. How do I go about it?

Apr 08, 2013

I didn't see it mentioned in the article but I believe this facility is located in Madison, WI.

Apr 08, 2013

The Forest Products Lab (FPL) is located on the University of Wisconsin campus located in Madison WI.

Mar 31, 2014

how do you laminate with nanocellulous. can I make it at home? where can you get it?

Gene Gama
Sep 10, 2014

We have abundant source of these fibers that can produce nanocellulose. We would like to collaborate with researches on using nanocellulose for their products.

Noah Swanson
Sep 26, 2014

I would like to purchase nanocellulose. Where can it be purchased?

Rich Himmelwright
Oct 02, 2014

How can I purchase a sample for coating formulation experiments?

Gene Gama
Oct 09, 2014

We are looking for buyers of Nanocellulose.

May 07, 2015

I am looking for NNC to prepare my innovation: biodegradable nanocellulose dressing with bioactive substances and nanosilver. I am scientist from Poland. Tell me: how to buy same NNC?

Lou Mattina
May 14, 2015

How can a sample be obtained from the Forest Products Lab.

Les Ball
Aug 17, 2015

I wish to invest in your product. How do I go about it?