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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Current Partnership Profiles with Research Units

Research UnitPartnership Profile

Durability and Wood Protection fpl Partnership Aiming for Faster Research Results

One major hurdle to durability research is the amount of time it takes to obtain results; studying materials in real-life, or in-service, scenarios can take years. To address this issue in one area of durability research, researchers at FPL and the University of Wisconsin are working together to develop methods that correlate in-service performance of metal fasteners and controlled corrosion experiments in wood. One step in developing this correlation is to understand how uncertainties in measurements affect the calculated corrosion rate in a controlled environment. The next step will be to compare metals immersed in a solution of preservative chemicals with corrosion of metals in contact with treated wood. The goal of this collaborative effort is to develop a qualitative test that mimics the corrosion behavior of metals in contact with treated wood without using actual wood specimens. Such a test would be of great value in rapidly evaluating the corrosiveness of new wood preservatives.

Economics, Statistics and Life Cycle Analysis Research fpl Promoting Commercial Success Through Economic Analysis".

Collaborative work between outside partners and FPL's Economics and Statistics Research group generally occurs through other research work units at the Forest Products Laboratory. For example, researchers in Engineered Composites Sciences and their commercial partner, Wyoming Sawmills, turned to FPL economists to help boost the success of a newly developed product

FPL and Wyoming Sawmills worked together to develop value-added laminated lumber products that helped improve forest health by creating a valuable use for undesirable timbers and also proved to be successful building materials. Upon researching the market for such a product, Wyoming Sawmills realized the demand was potentially much larger than they could supply, and decided it would be advantageous to put together an economic model of the process. Such a model would assist other business in picking up on the technology as well, thereby expanding the market, increasing the success of the product, and ultimately promoting Wyoming Sawmills.

To assist with the commercialization of these products, FPL economists developed a tool for evaluating the financial feasibility of laminated lumber plants. This spreadsheet-based computer program, called LamLum, analyzes the economics of laminated lumber manufacturing facilities by helping organize information (such as wood supply, loan interest rates, financing, product prices, and materials and labor costs) and then determining how important each of these factors are in the profitability of the facility. The program is now available to anyone interested in a business venture of this nature and can provide critical information to help get them started.

Engineered Composites Sciences fpl Product Promotes Healthy Ecosystems and Rural Economy

Western juniper and pinyon pine have spread over millions of acres of rangeland in the west, lowering the water table and increasing erosion and pollution of streams and lakes. Researchers in Engineered Composites Sciences developed a composite panel made from juniper and recycled high-density polyethylene plastic as a means to better utilize and add value to this resource while helping to alleviate some of these ecological tensions.
With the help of FPL's Forest Products Marketing Unit (FPMU), P&M Signs, Inc., of Mountainair, New Mexico, now produces Altree® based on this research. Altree® is a high-value wood-plastic composite that is non-corrosive, insect and mold resistant, nontoxic, and stable in all weather conditions.

It can be used in many applications, including signage, decking, fencing, picnic tables, park benches, tool handles and landscape timbers. Altree® has been a success for the company and the community; major customers include the U.S. Forest Service, New Mexico Highway Department, New Mexico State Parks, New Mexico Game and Fish, and National Parks.

Engineering Properties of Wood, Wood based Materials and Structures fpl Sound waves reveal wood quality in logs and standing trees

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory have extensively studied techniques using sound waves for assessing the mechanical and physical properties of wood and wood-based materials. Called non-destructive evaluation, or NDE, the techniques involve measuring the speed at which sound waves travel through logs or standing trees to determine the quality of the wood before it is sawn.

FPL researchers, working cooperatively with Fibre-gen, a New Zealand company, developed several tools on the market today that use acoustic, laser, and ultrasound technologies to evaluate the strength and soundness of the wood in logs and standing trees.

The Director HM200TM uses a pulse-echo measurement to assess logs and gives landowners and loggers a new way to grade and market logs by sorting and matching them to manufacturer and customer demands for stiffness and strength of products. The technology is beneficial when integrated into log supply and processing decision-making.

The Director ST300 utilizes several technologies (ultrasound, lasers, and impact-induced stress waves) to assess standing timber and allows forest managers to determine the quality of wood without cutting down the tree. The technology can be easily integrated with pre-harvest and earlier stand assessments, which aids in assessing mature stands for marketing, harvest planning and scheduling, assisting in planning silvicultural operations in immature stands, and in tree breeding operations.

Fiber and Chemical Sciences Research fpl Forest Thinnings Produce Thermomechanical Pulp and Quality Lumber

A research collaboration among FPL, University of Idaho (Moscow), Pacific Northwest Research Station, Colville National Forest, Ponderay Newsprint Company (PNC), and Ponderay Valley Fiber (PVF) has addressed two forestry-related issues, one of environmental and one of economic concern: overcrowding of forests in the western United States and a diminishing supply of pulpwood from public and private lands in the same region.

Preliminary FPL research showed that small-diameter, thinned trees, once thought to be inferior, are in fact suitable for lumber and pulp production. Furthermore, less refining energy was required to produce pulp from forest thinnings than from conventional wood supplies. To convince the pulp and paper industry that thinnings are a good alternative source of wood fiber, researchers demonstrated their findings at Ponderay Newsprint company and Ponderay Valley Fiber. Results of this study show that lumber produced from forest thinnings meets or exceeds the saw mill specification. Chips generated from forest thinnings as either whole logs or sawmill residuals produced commercial-quality thermomechanical pulp for newsprint.

This collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Research Station and Colville National Forest continues, now evaluating bark-beetle-killed pines for use in pulping and paper products.

Institute for Microbial and Biochemical Technology fpl Making Ethanol from Biomass to Meet Energy Demands

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers have had proven and continuing success working with commercial partners to improve methods of converting biomass to alternative fuels such as ethanol. One important goal of these collaborations is to promote biomass as a way to meet increasing worldwide energy demands.

Xethanol Corporation, an ethanol producer with facilities in Iowa, acquired licensing rights to a patented process developed by FPL and the University of Wisconsin and signed a cooperative research and development agreement to solidify the partnership. The patented process aids in the conversion of xylose, a sugar found in waste biomass and corn fiber, to ethanol and xylitol, a sweetener used in food processing.

The conversion takes place through a fermentation process in which specialized yeast strains break down the xylose. The process reduces the time and labor involved in the critical task of isolating and screening yeast strains for effective fermentation agents and can be used for conversion of both agricultural waste and woody biomass.

Collaborative research in this area is continuing with a new partnership recently formed between FPL and EdeniQ, a company that focuses on turning abundant, non-food biomass into fuels. Researchers are developing yeasts used to ferment xylose and glucose from biomass for commercial ethanol production.

Forest Biopolymer Science and Engineering fpl Ongoing Collaboration Leads to Success for Adhesives Research

Adhesives are only a small part of wood composites by weight but are a substantial part of the cost. Increasing petroleum prices have stimulated commercial interest in using soybean flour for bonding wood products instead of the traditionally used petroleum-based phenol-formaldehyde. Based on this interest, a partnership was formed between the Forest Products Laboratory and Heartland Resource Technologies in 2004, and a technology was jointly developed that uses up to 75% soybean flour in the adhesive.

Xethanol Corporation, an ethanol producer with facilities in Iowa, acquired licensing rights to a patented process developed by FPL and the University of Wisconsin and signed a cooperative research and development agreement to solidify the partnership. The patented process aids in the conversion of xylose, a sugar found in waste biomass and corn fiber, to ethanol and xylitol, a sweetener used in food processing.

The research was initially aimed at replacing part of the existing adhesive for oriented strandboard. However, the success of the laboratory work, including the issuance of several patents, has led to the pursuit of additional applications, including plywood and molded wood products. Research moved from mainly laboratory work to a mixture of laboratory studies and plant trials.

The success of this work is further illustrated by the creation of a new research and development venture in 2007 called H2H Innovations, which is the result of Heartland Resource Technologies joining forces with Hercules Incorporated. H2H Innovations plans to leverage existing soy-based adhesive technologies from both companies to accelerate the development of new adhesive products for the wood products industry.