At a fundamental level, wood is a complex biological structure, a composite of many chemistries, cell types and hierarchical structure all acting together to serve the needs of the plant. Not surprising there are limitations to wood performance when humankind has used wood in ways that “nature” never intended: lumber, furniture, flooring, laminated lumber, veneer, plywood, oriented strain board, particle board, fiber composites, paper, filters, etc… Wood science research has made significant improvements in the usefulness and durability of wood by improving wood’s properties, dimensional stability, and degradation resistance from weathering, fire, and decay, through chemical modification and by improving the products that are used in conjunction with wood, such as adhesives and coatings. The Forest Products Laboratory has taken a leading role in many of these endeavors, and recently has been leading the push for nanotechnology research within the forest industry. Nanotechnology offers unique opportunities to conduct wood science research by first principles at a size scale that is comparable to wood’s chemical structure.
This talk will provide an overview of research opportunities within forest products industry. There will be a general description of the anatomical and chemical structure of wood, their connection to wood’s anisotropic properties and how nanotechnology research can be applied to provide unique insight for wood property modification, as well as new product development. A summary of several nanotechnology research areas that Forest Products Laboratory has begun research in will be given.