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Friday, November 30

Cellulose Nanomaterials-Sustainable Materials for the 21st Century

Theodore H. Wegner, PhD, USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Oak Ridge
Materials Science and Technology Division Seminar
11:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS),
Building 5100, Auditorium
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.