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Friday, November 30

Cellulose Nanomaterials: Sustainable Materials for the 21st Century

Theodore H. Wegner, USDA Forest Service,
Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin
Materials Science and Technology Division,
Polymer Matrix Composites Group, Seminar
11:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Joint Institute for Computational Sciences
(Building 5100) Auditorium (Room 128)
Contact: Cliff Eberle (, 865.574.0302


Forest biomass in the form of trees is the basis for America's forest products sector; is sustainable and renewable; and sequesters carbon both in the growth of forest biomass and in the use of forest products. In the US, over 200 million tons of wood are annually converted to over $250 billion of products employing 1 million Americans and representing about 6 percent of manufacturing GDP. Despite this, less than one percent of total standing forest biomass is used for products and annual growth over harvest ratio is almost 2:1.

Wood is a fibrillar hierarchical orthotropic material primarily composed of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Woodfiber is composed of nanodimensional building blocks that have strength properties greater than Kevlar® and piezoelectric properties equivalent to quartz. In addition, cellulosic nanomaterials can be manipulated to produce photonic structures; are remarkably uniform in size and shape; possess self-assembly properties; and can be renewably produced in quantities of tens of millions of tons.

Applications for cellulosic nanomaterials in the manufacture of products promise new value-added features, improved performance attributes, reduced energy intensity, and more efficient use of materials. For example, use of wood-derived cellulosic nanomaterials in composites will allow the production of much lighter weight, hyper-strength, multifunctional materials with widespread application. Applications could include such things as flexible electronic displays; clear armor; self-sterilizing and self-healing surfaces; pharmaceutical products; and intelligent wood- and paper-based products with an array of micro and nanosensors.

Recognizing the importance of cellulosic nanomaterials, the forest products industry, the USDA Forest Service, and academia have established a common agenda and an informal Public-Private partnership. The focus of this partnership is to develop precompetitive science and technology critical to the commercial use of cellulosic nanomaterials. Current research focus is to efficiently produce quantities of cellulosic nanomaterials for research and applications development; characterize cellulosic nanomaterials; develop the means to modify the functionality of cellulose nanomaterial surfaces; develop the enabling science and technologies needed to capture the performance properties of cellulosic nanomaterials and produce nano-enabled macroscale composites; and develop multiscale modeling.

About the speaker:
Ted Wegner is Assistant Director of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory and has been a leader in advancing nanotechnology and the forest biorefinery within the forest products industry sector. In 2004, he co-chaired the first US workshop on Nanotechnology for the Forest Products Industry and was co-editor of the “Nanotechnology for the Forest Products Industry: Vision and Technology Roadmap”. In 2005, he helped organize a National Science Foundation workshop on lignocellulosic nanotechnology at Georgia Institute of Technology. He was co-chair and organizer of the 2006 - 2011 International Conferences on Nanotechnology for Renewable Materials. He serves as Forest Service representative on the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. Wegner also participates in the Forest Products Industry’s Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance. The Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance is an industry-led group aimed at reinventing the forest products industry through innovation in processes, materials and markets. Wegner has coauthored a number of papers on forest-based nanomaterials and the forest biorefinery. Wegner received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois. Prior to his joining the USDA Forest Service in 1977, he worked for DuPont. Wegner is a member of a number of technical and scientific societies*; was elected as a Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry; and was selected to receive the Chase Award by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

*American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Materials Research Society, Society of Wood Science and Technology, Forest Products Society, International Academy of Wood Science, Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, Sigma Xi Research Society, Alpha Chi Sigma Professional Chemistry Fraternity