future of the U.S. lumber and paper industries,
which employ some 1.1 million Americans and contribute
more than $240 billion annually to the nation’s
economy, could depend on how well those industries
embrace the emerging science of nanotechnology,
according to a report just released by a panel of
leading researchers from industry, government labs,
and academic institutions.
hundred-page report, titled “Nanotechnology for
the Forest Products Industry—Vision and Technology
Roadmap,” can be read or downloaded for free from:
www.nanotechforest.org. It will also be available
on other websites including those of the USDA Forest
Service’s Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)(www.fpl.fs.fed.us/)
and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper
Industry (TAPPI) (www.tappi.org). TAPPI also plans
to publish a hard-copy version.
report is based on presentations and discussion
by some 110 researchers from North America and Europe,
with an interest in wood, paper or other forest
products, who gathered in Virginia last October
to explore the possible role of nanotechnology—the
science of very small particles—in the forest products
three-day workshop was co-chaired by Philip Jones
of Imerys, a supplier of minerals to the paper industry,
and Theodore Wegner, assistant director of FPL,
the federal government’s wood-utilization research
“Roadmap,” so-called because it is intended to show
where the forest products industry needs to go and
how to get there, describes the U.S. forest products
industry as a mature, somewhat-stagnant energy-intensive
industry that is facing new global competition.
The report suggests that the infusion of nanotechnology
could lead to new and improved products and improved,
more efficient manufacturing processes.
represents a major opportunity to generate new products
and industries in the coming decades,” the Roadmap
uses of nanotechnology in forest products, as identified
in the Roadmap, include development of intelligent
wood- and paper-based products that could incorporate
built-in nanosensors to measure forces, loads, moisture
levels, temperatures, or pressures, or detect the
presence of wood-decay fungi or termites.
according to the Roadmap, nanotechnology can have
an even greater impact.
can provide benefits that extend well beyond fiber
product and new materials development and into the
areas of sustainable energy production, storage
and utilization … New ways to produce energy, chemicals
and other innovative products and processes from
this renewable, domestic resource base will help
address major issues facing our nation, including
national energy security, global climate change,
air and water quality, and global industrial competitiveness,”
the report says.
According to the Roadmap, researchers face a number
of challenges including the lack of adequate technology
to measure and study wood-based materials at the
nanoscale level. The Roadmap’s authors call on the
forest products industry, universities with forest
products research and education departments, technology
developers and research institutes serving the forest
products industry and federal agencies to reach
a consensus on research priorities.
Roadmap is intended to encourage researchers to
begin addressing some of these issues,” said Ted
Wegner, assistant director of the FPL and a co-sponsor
of last fall’s workshop.
The important thing to materials researchers is
that nanoparticles behave and react very differently
from single atoms or molecules or large quantities
of the same matter. ( A nanometer is one billionth
of a meter; a typical sheet of paper is about 100,000
nanometers thick. A nanoscale-size particle can
contain anywhere from fewer than 100 to several
unique, sometimes surprising, qualities of nanomaterials
create the potential for developing products that
have new and improved performance characteristics
and could make possible entirely new products with
performance capabilities never before possible.
USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory,
located in Madison, Wis., was established in 1910
with the mission of conserving and extending America’s
wood resources. Today, its research scientists work
with academic, industrial and other government agencies
in exploring ways to promote healthy forests and
clean water, and improve paper-making and recycling
processes. Through the Advanced Housing Research
Center, FPL researchers also work to develop and
improve homebuilding technologies and materials.