Nanotechnology of Cellulose of Wood - Stronger than Steel

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 21, 2021 / comments

[Rebecca Wallace, 10-17-17]

One of the most exciting and innovative forest products today is nanocellulose, a product that is as strong as steel but five times lighter. Here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we produce nanocellulose and work with many partners to study potential commercial applications for this wonder material that brings wood to industries that perhaps have not incorporated it before.

The Forest Service recently produced a video that explains what nanocellulose is, how it’s produced, and what it can be made into. It might seem hard to believe that wood can be used to make ballistic glass, synthetic armor, replacement tendons (yes, in people!), or coatings that keep food fresh longer. But it’s all within reach, thanks to nanocellulose research…just watch and learn!


VIDEO https://youtu.be/FPyfZIDcM_E

 

TRANSCRIPT:

00:03
This is the most exciting new technology project I’ve ever had in my life.

00:13
Nanotechnology is a comparatively new field of science.

00:17
It deals with controlling matter on the scale of nanometers, in order to create state-of-the-art materials.

00:23
The science community has just in the last decade or so developed the capability

00:30
of actually looking at and testing and understanding materials in the nano-scale range.

00:37
To understand the world of nanotechnology, one needs to get an idea of the scale involved.

00:44
A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

00:48
The head of a pin is about one million nanometers wide, and a human hair about 100,000 nanometers wide.

00:59
The biggest thing is that you can’t see it.

01:00
You can’t see it with the visible eye, you can’t see it with a microscope,

01:04
you can’t see it with light.

01:07
It takes an electron microscope and it takes the best electron microscopes to

01:11
find these things and tell us what we’re looking at, what we’ve made.

01:14
The Forest Service’s research branch has been instrumental in nanotechnology studies.

01:20
In part because some nano-materials are comprised of cellulose, a component of wood.

01:26
Basically, one way to think about it is a very ultra refined paper.

01:30
You break it down to its tiniest, tiniest elements

01:34
and we get these crystalline forms of cellulose.

01:35
Cellulose nano-crystals are extracted from native biomass, in this case trees,

01:41
by Forest Products Lab, and you just basically dissolve the rest of the wood, other than the crystal

01:47
and cellulose away in acid, collect the crystals.

01:50
They're renewable, nontoxic.

01:51
You can have as much as you want from sawdust and waste biomass if you want.

01:57
Creating markets for wood is imperative in our ongoing restoration efforts.

02:03
We must find uses for the millions of diseased, damaged and

02:07
small diameter logs now heavily overstocking our forests.

02:11
It’s kind of amazing.

02:12
When you think about a tree, they can grow 370 feet high in the air;

02:18
that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty.

02:19
That's a pretty amazing structure.

02:21
It can withstand rain events, wind events, earthquakes, hurricanes.

02:26
A tremendous amount of strength in that material and what we do is we actually break that tree

02:30
down to its ultimate crystalline stages where we get all that strength

02:34
and we get it in a very compact way.

02:35
And so then we can take the strength and bring it to all kinds of different materials.

02:40
Cellulose nano-materials are as strong as steel, but five times lighter.

02:47
Potential uses include car panels, ballistic glass, synthetic armor, and even medical applications

02:56
One of the things people have looked at is building connective tissue,

03:00
like replacement tendons primarily because cellulose

03:04
iis very, very compatible with the human body in general.

03:06
There is also an application for food coatings to delay the decay rate.

03:11
Almost half the fruits and vegetables that are produced end up going to waste.

03:15
The idea that we could maybe halve that number.

03:18
This is huge. This is absolutely huge.

03:23
The Forest Products Lab has been working with a group of partners to test

03:27
practical uses of this technology.

03:30
All of these groups coming together to really try to take something from a laboratory study

03:35
and really move it into commercialization where it can really have an impact

03:39
on people and on communities.

03:43
One such product tested was concrete.

03:46
So what we've seen today is we've seen the first, that we're aware of, the first addition

03:50
of cellulose nano-crystals to concrete at a truck scale of anywhere in the world.

03:55
Cement’s this weird thing that you want it to flow so you want to add a lot of water

03:59
except that makes it weak. You want to add very little water to make it strong.

04:03
The CNCs enhance the hydration that you can ultimately add less water to get a higher strength cement.

04:10
As they mixed that together it was then transported over here to the wave lab,

04:14
where we were able to actually start to make different types of samples.

04:18
The whole objective is to bring innovation to the forest products industry.

04:22
By using a forest product what we're doing is creating markets for forests.

04:27
Rather than lab scale we want to be dealing with bridges and roads and pre-cast

04:33
and big stuff, stuff that people actually use.

04:40
The research division of the USDA Forest Service has been working with this promising new application

04:45
of wood fiber which will help restore our national forests into the future.

04:52
it’s a game changer, it’s a game changer for the wood products industry, and we think

04:58
it is going to be a game changer for the materials industries.