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December 31, 2013
Commercial production of cellulosic nanomaterial

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a USDA agency, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, a private entity, will work together over the next 3 years to advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial at scale. 

“Cellulosic nanomaterial—using materials extracted from trees at nano-scale or 1 billionth of a meter (a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers in diameter)—holds great promise and can be used in everything from ballistic glass replacements to body armor, auto and aerospace structural materials, flexible electronic circuits, solar panels, and more,” says the Endowment.  “Cellulosic nanomaterial has exceptional strength and is considerably lighter weight when compared to materials it can replace.  It is lower cost than similar nanomaterial and it is made from a renewable resource.”

According to the USDA, the partnership will build on work done by the Forest Products Laboratory, a national research laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. 

The USDA and the Endowment have previously collaborated on other projects, including the potential of biotechnology to address forest health and wood-to-energy projects that support the growth of jobs in rural America. 

The USDA says the new venture has four overriding goals:

  • Emphasize the potential of wood-based nanotechnology for the economy and the environment.
  • Overcome technical barriers to commercialization of wood-based nanotechnology.
  • Demonstrate commitment to creating high-paying jobs in rural America through value-added manufacturing and high-value products.
  • Showcase the commitment of the USDA and the USFS to innovation.

For the Endowment, the key driver is the renewability of the resource.  “To keep our nation’s forests as forests and to keep them healthy we need robust markets,” says the Endowment.  “Traditional forest products will be a part of our economy for the foreseeable future, but expanding the market with new technologies will help us grow our economy, grow jobs in rural America, and ultimately, grow more and healthier forests.” 

The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.