According to recent research, the future of the U.S. forest products industries, which employ some 1.1 million Americans and contribute more than $240 billion annually to the nation's economy, could depend on how well those industries embrace the emerging science of nanotechnology.
The hundred-page report, titled "Nanotechnology for the Forest Products Industry—Vision and Technology Roadmap," is based on presentations and discussion by some 110 researchers from North America and Europe, with an interest in wood, paper, or other forest products, to explore the possible role of nanotechnology in the forest products industries.
The "Roadmap," so called because it is intended to show where the forest products industry needs to go and how to get there, describes the U.S. forest products industry as a mature, somewhat stagnant energy-intensive industry that is facing new global competition. The report, which is the first comprehensive look at nanotechnology for the U.S. forest products industry, suggests that the infusion of nanotechnology could lead to new and improved products. It also could lead to improved and more efficient manufacturing processes.
"Nanotechnology represents a major opportunity to generate new products and industries in the coming decades," the Roadmap says.
Potential uses of nanotechnology in forest products, as identified in the Roadmap, include development of intelligent wood- and paper-based products that could incorporate built-in nanosensors to measure forces, loads, moisture levels, temperatures, or pressures, or detect the presence of wood-decay fungi or termites. According to the Roadmap, nanotechnology can have an even greater impact by providing benefits that extend well beyond food products but into the areas of sustainable energy production, storage, and utilization.
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