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USDA announces partnership to advance cellulosic nanomaterial from wood

12/12/2013 at 8:15 a.m.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced a public-private partnership to rapidly advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial, a wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. The partnership is between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and the U.S. Forest Service.

"We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology to strengthen rural America by creating sustainable jobs and adding timber value while also creating conservation opportunities in working forests," said Vilsack. "This public- private partnership will develop high-tech outputs from the forest products sector, and promote the invention of renewable products that have substantial environmental benefits."

For perspective, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide. Materials at this scale have unique properties. Cellulosic nanomaterial has exceptional strength and considerably lighter weight when compared with materials it can replace. It is lower cost than similar nanomaterial and it is made from a renewable resource. Potential applications include ballistic glass replacements, body armor, auto and aerospace structural materials, flexible electronic circuits, solar panels and more.

The three-year partnership will promote cellulosic nanomaterial as a commercially viable enterprise by building on work done by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis. The partnership seeks to overcome technical barriers to large- scale wood-based nanotechnology processing, while filling gaps in the science and technology that are needed for commercialization. Initial funding comes from the Endowment and the Forest Service. The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.

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