Our forests are so much more than places to hike, camp, and relax. Many valuable products, resources, and benefits are derived from both public and private forests. The Forest Service strives to find ways to use our national forests and grasslands to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. All Americans benefit from forest products in some way every day. Examples of these products include:
- Paper and packaging materials
- Lumber for homes and buildings
- Composite materials for construction
- Renewable energy materials
- Stronger, lighter laminated building materials
- High value wood for furniture and flooring
- Structural materials for bridges and transportation safety
Forest Products Laboratory
The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wis. is one of seven national Forest Service research facilities. Producing high-quality, science-based innovation, FPL research improves the safety, comfort, and well-being of every American, every day. FPL partners with other government agencies, small businesses, tribal communities, industry collaborators, and universities worldwide. FPL research stimulates economic resilience in many areas, including housing, bioenergy, tourism, and packaging and paper. By promoting the efficient use of forest resources, FPL research also helps protect against natural disturbances, such as wildfires, invasive species, and a changing climate. FPL scientists focus their research around five areas:
Wood composite technologies have been used for decades to create building and home furnishing products. Composites are used for a number of structural and non-structural applications including interior paneling, sheathing, furniture, and support structures in many different types of buildings.
The FPL is a world leader in housing-related areas such as engineered wood products and structures, moisture control, material design and performance, coatings and finishes, adhesives, and wood preservation. Creating advanced technologies and alternative building methods can greatly enhance the value of wood in residential, non-residential, and transportation structures.
Trees are one of the best potential sources of biological fuel and chemicals. They grow in marginal soils unsuitable for agriculture; do not require fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides; and accumulate biomass density for several years before incurring harvest costs. Converting wood resources into liquid fuels and chemical feedstock is becoming more cost competitive thanks in part to FPL research.
FPL scientists are conducting nanoscale research to learn more about the fundamental components of wood. Nanotechnology is a multi-disciplinary field of applied science and technology. Nanocellulose holds revolutionary potential for the forest products sector and is the economic key to accelerated forest restoration. Nanocellulose can be a cost-effective substitute for non-renewable resources in all manufacturing sectors.
U.S. forests contain a substantial amount of small-diameter, overstocked, and underutilized material. FPL scientists study small-diameter woody material, identify potential uses, and provide technology that can help rural-based communities create successful businesses from the by-products of forest management projects. FPL research explores the potential of small-diameter roundwood as a structural material for bridges, boardwalks, trail structures, picnic shelters, storage sheds, and other rustic buildings.