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USDA Secretary Vilsack Tours the Forest Products Laboratory

Posted by James T. Spartz, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Forestry
Feb 21, 2017
Research Microbiologist Carol Clausen discusses wood durability and protection research with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during his visit to the Forest Products Laboratory.
Research Microbiologist Carol Clausen discusses wood durability and protection research with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during his visit to the Forest Products Laboratory.

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently guided USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack through its unique set of research facilities. Basic and applied research at FPL supports a number of objectives, including forest management and restoration, the wise use of forest resources, job creation, and expanding economic opportunities through public-private partnerships on a national scale.

Throughout his tour, Secretary Vilsack talked with lab leadership about FPL’s diverse and innovative research efforts. Project leaders used the opportunity to field questions from the Secretary and explain work ranging from wood preservation and durability to advances in “green” building strategies and technology, use of beetle-killed trees, work on historic timber bridges, and advances in nanocellulose-related materials and applications.

In FPL’s unique weather testing facility, project leader Carol Clausen described how wall assemblies can be tested for a range of harsh conditions, from heavy rain and extreme heat to high humidity and strong winds.

“Developing durable building materials for green construction is a win-win situation for the Nation’s forests and the American people,” Clausen told Vilsack. “Utilizing beetle-killed trees to create value-added products, improves forest health, reduces the wildfire threat and creates jobs.”

In the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory, project leader Bob Ross brought out the big gun—an air-powered debris launcher used to develop protective safe-rooms in hurricane and tornado-prone areas. The Secretary watched as the unique air-cannon blasted an eight-foot, 2x4 board into a test wall of cross-laminated material at over 100 miles per hour. The board didn’t shatter but the test-wall took quite a dent.

In the world renowned Nanocellulose Pilot Plant, project leader Alan Rudie walked the Secretary through some of FPL’s most advanced equipment. High-strength and extremely versatile, nanocellulose materials can be used for a variety of applications including ballistic glass; small, powerful transistors; and heat-resistant additives for concrete, among many other uses.

Zhiyong Cai, project leader for FPL’s engineered composite science unit, demonstrated uses for cellulose nanofibrils material in bio-degradable electronic parts, high performance insolation aerogel material, and regenerated cellulose braided reinforced fabric.

“The Secretary was very interested in nanotechnology applications in forest products research,” said Cai. “He was impressed with the impact that cellulose nanomaterial could bring to not only the forest products industry, but also electronics and other industries.”

Category/Topic: Forestry

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Steve Hancock
Oct 09, 2012

Cellulose nanomaterial sounds like new technology for the future. It's a win-win situation... go for it!

ken koupal design
Oct 22, 2012

I am very interested in nanocellulose material, I have designed a radical way to build structures for disaster relief shelters, which can in fact have a very long useful life as permanent housing. These are not tents! The flat panels are 2 3/4" thick and would have integral truss structure and all voids in the panels will have foam that serves as insulation and strucural reinforcement in the panel. panels are 9' 7 1/2" x 29' 7 1/2" can parts this size be Pultruded using nanocellulose?

James T. Spartz
Oct 26, 2012

Ken Koupal - you should contact staff at the Forest Products Laboratory *directly* for answers to your questions. Try Bob Ross in the Engineering Mechanics laboratory. Or call the front desk at (608) 231-9200 to be forwarded appropriately. You can visit the FPL website at --- Good luck!