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Commercializing Cellulosic Nanomaterials

Contact: Rebecca Wallace
Distributed October 28th, 2014
NR # 20141026
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Today the USDA Forest Service released a report that details the pathway and key considerations for commercializing green, affordable, renewable, and biodegradable cellulose nanomaterials isolated from trees. Cellulosic nanomaterials are nature’s naturally occurring structural building blocks, hold great promise for many new and improved commercial products, and have the potential to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs while aiding in restoring our nation’s forests.

The commercialization report is a result of a materials user-driven workshop held May 20–21, 2014, in Washington, D.C., that brought together a wide range of experts from industry, academia, and government to ensure that commercialization efforts are driven by market and user materials needs with cross-sector industrial-focused partnerships and dialogue. The report titled “Cellulose Nanomaterials – A Path towards Commercialization” is available at (web address will be inserted).
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images of the formation of silver nanoparticles on the surface of Tunicate CNCs. Robert Moon, Forest Service

Cellulose nanomaterials have the potential to add value to an array of new and improved products across a range of industries, including electronics, construction, food, energy, health care, automotive, aerospace, and defense, according to Ted Wegner, assistant director at the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory.

"This environmentally friendly material is extremely attractive because it has a unique combination of high strength, high stiffness, and light weight at what looks to be affordable prices," Wegner explains. "Creating market pull for cellulose nanomaterials is critical to its commercialization, and we need to generate greater public and market awareness of the benefits and uses for naturally-occurring cellulose nanomaterials."

The success of this commercialization effort is important to the Forest Service for another key reason: creating forests that are more resilient to disturbances through restorative actions. If excess biomass removed from overgrown forests can be made into higher value products like nanocellulose, it's a win-win. "Finding high-value, high-volume uses for low-value materials is the key to successful forest restoration," says Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and Forest Products Laboratory. "With about 400 million acres of America’s forests in need of some type of restorative action, finding markets for wood-based nanocellulose could have a huge impact on the economic viability of that work."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, in collaboration with the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), organized the workshop. Participants included over 130 stakeholders from large volume industrial users, specialty users, Federal Government agencies, academia, NGOs, cellulose nanomaterials manufactures and industry consultants. The workshop generated market-driven input in three areas: Opportunities for Commercialization, Barriers to Commercialization, and Research and Development (R&D) Roles and Priorities. Issues identified by participants included the need for more data on materials properties, performance, and environmental, health, and safety implications and the need for a more aggressive U.S. response to opportunities for advancing and developing cellulose nanomaterial.

"The workshop was a great opportunity to get research ideas directly from the people who want to use the material," says World Nieh, the U.S. Forest Service’s national program lead for forest products. "Getting the market perspective and finding out what barriers they have encountered is invaluable guidance for moving research in a direction that will bring cellulose nanomaterials into the marketplace for commercial use." For over 100 years, the Forest Products Laboratory’s work with academia, industry, and other government agencies has led to ground-breaking discoveries with great benefit to the public. Additional information on FPL's research is available at