According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, recent developments in the use of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and nanofibrils (CNF) open “a brave new world for wood products.”

The report says that when CNCs and CNFs are added to other materials, products can be made stronger, lighter, more cheaply, and from renewable resources. The technology could potentially speed up forest restoration work by providing new markets for very low-value fiber.

“But the steps necessary to start include identifying available landscapes for raw material supply needs, establishing markets, and beginning the construction of manufacturing facilities to put product into these new markets,” the report says. “There is an incredible potential, but much spade work needs to be completed.”

CNCs could provide better gap-filling ability for adhesives, strengthening wood products, while CNFs could be used to make lightweight armaments, solar collectors, or even synthetic ligaments and tendons for humans.

The USFS report says that nano-enabled wood products could contribute upward of 800,000 jobs in the U.S. and add as much $400 billion to the U.S. economy by 2015.

—The report was written by Michael Goergen, James Harding, Carlton Owen, Mark Rey, and Lynn Scarlett.