Craig Clemons, a materials research engineer with the Forest Products Laboratory, now has a microfluidizer.
The device, part of the Centennial Research Facility’s Engineered Composite Science unit, is helping researchers better understand the potential of wood nanoparticles.
Researchers believe that tiny wood fibers could be used to replace some plastic and metal products with lighter, stronger products made from wood.
The remains of wood used to make ethanol contain the strongest and most structurally sound part of wood, Clemons said. The leftover wood fibers are broken down using a microfluidizer until the cellulose nanofibrils are almost clear.
“What we eventually might be able to do is to make extremely strong, clear composites from wood,” Clemons said. “We’re trying to find out what kind of performance it has. It’s very different from your traditional wood composites.”
Applications could include flexible video screens or uses in the aerospace and automobile industries that are looking for strong but lightweight materials.
The FPL has been working on nanofibers for about five years, Clemons said.