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Nanotech-Forest Products Roadmap

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 industries.

The 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 center.

The “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.

“Nanotechnology represents a major opportunity to generate new products and industries in the coming decades,” the Roadmap says.

Potential 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.

But according to the Roadmap, nanotechnology can have an even greater impact.

“Nanotechnology 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.

“The 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 thousand atoms.)

The 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.

The 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.

This story has been adapted from a news release -
Diese Meldung basiert auf einer Pressemitteilung -
Deze tekst is gebaseerd op een nieuwsbericht -

 

 

 


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