Will wood someday be a force in the world of nanotechnology—the science of enhancing the properties and performance of materials and products by manipulating them at the nanometer scale, or one billionth of a meter?
The U.S. forest products industry thinks it can be. It has developed a nanotechnology roadmap to identify needs and opportunities to improve the performance and functionality of wood products.
As delineated in “Nanotechnology Opportunities in Residential and Non-Residential Construction” (www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf2005/fpl_2005_wegner003.pdf), a report by the Forest Products Laboratory, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the forest products industry seeks to utilize two main strategies:
ƒÞ Incorporating nanomaterials and nanosensors developed by other industry sectors into construction wood products.
ƒÞ Exploiting the nanoscale properties of wood to develop completely new products.
For example, by using “nanomanipulated fiber-to-fiber bonding,” wood could be made to offer longer service life in severe moisture environments. By incorporating nanosensors into wood products, new “intelligent” wood could be capable of measuring variables such as forces, loads, moisture levels, temperature, pressure, and chemical emissions. Nanosensored wood might even be able to detect fungi and termites.
Other potential applications for tomorrow’s “nano-woods” include materials with enhanced capabilities for fire protection, weathering resistance, UV protection, and preservation of exterior finishes.