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Faculty members in NC State University’s Department of Forest Biomaterials (FB) are engaged in a wide variety of scholarly research projects, both individually and as informal teams. Descriptions of their general areas of interest, arranged by topic, can be found below. More thorough descriptions of each faculty member’s activities can be found in the Faculty & Staff Directory, as well as by visiting the faculty-maintained websites mentioned in their bios.

To give a general sense of the research being carried out in FB, several broad categories of work are alphabetized and introduced below. These areas include Biomaterials & Bioenergy, Papermaking & Recycling, Pulping & Bleaching, Wood Chemistry, Wood Products & Housing and Wood Products Extension. Please click on the highlighted names below for more information on the research projects a faculty member is conducting within each area of study.

Biomaterials

Biomaterials research is a rapidly expanding area for FB. Research projects include significant efforts by Dimitris ArgyropoulosHou-min Chang, Marty HubbeHasan JameelSteve KelleyLucian Lucia, Sunkyu Park, Joel Pawlak, and Richard Venditti.

A number of innovative projects are investigating the fundamental and applied aspects of new cellulose and lignin based biomaterials. These projects include novel chemical approaches, polymeric phase behavior and process development. Recent projects include:

  • Production of super high-strength nanocellulose for reinforcing plastics and fibers, and rheology control
  • Isolation and upgrading of lignin for production of plastics, carbon fibers, stabilized emulsions, adhesives, and fuel additives
  • Formulation of natural polysaccharides into super absorbent foams and fibers
  • Hydrogels and membranes for waste water treatment and removal of heavy metals
  • Development of novel analytical methods for understanding the behavior of the cellulose, lignin and other biomass components
  • Conversion of natural proteins into surfactants and wet strength agents
  • Creation of tissue scaffolds

Bioenergy

Sustainable bioenergy research is major component of FB’s current research portfolio. Now of the projects include a combination of fundamental science, technology innovation, and systems analysis. Faculty engaged in this arena include Dimitris ArgyropoulosHou-min ChangHasan JameelSteve KelleyLucian LuciaSunkyu ParkJoel PawlakRichard PhillipsDaniel SaloniDavid Tilotta and Richard Venditti. Recent projects driven by faculty teams include :

  • Creation of a series of industrial consortia with more than 40 companies evaluating new biofuels technology that could be integrated into a pulp and paper mill
  • Evaluation of low energy routes for producing bioethanol
  • Development of a fundamental understanding of the molecular and chemical features that control the enzymatic reactivity of cellulose substrates
  • Formulation of wood pellets and solid wood fuels with enhance properties
  • Generation of hydrocarbon fuels using wood gasification and pyrolysis
  • Integrated evaluation of the financial and life cycle implications of new biofuels processes

Papermaking & Recycling

Papermaking and Recycling research is being carried out by various faculty, including Martin Hubbe,  Joel Pawlak, and Richard Venditti.

The department has made significant research contributions to the understanding of surface charge phenomena, effects of enzymes, the role of polymeric additives to the process, as well as colloid chemical aspects of the paper manufacturing process. Faculty teams have also made significant contributions in de-inking, removal and effects of stickies, repulping of wax-containing paper, and automated, high-speed sorting of waste-paper fragments.

  • Wet strength agents for paper fiber and webs
  • Renewable proteins for removal of tacky materials in paper recycling
  • Bamboo and non-wood fibers for value-added products
  • Non-wood fibers for hygiene products in developing economies
  • New analytic methods to characterize cellulose and cellulose fiber surfaces

Wood, Pulping & Bleaching Chemistry

Vincent Chiang pursues fundamental and applied research related to characterization and manipulation of genetics for improved wood properties, enhanced pulping, bioenergy and biofuels.

Different aspects of wood and cellulose chemistry, and pulping and bleaching have being pursued by Dimitris ArgyropoulosHou-min ChangSteve KelleyLucian LuciaSunkyu Park. Topics include lignin chemical characterization, novel analytical methods, solvent systems for cellulosic materials and biomass conversion to chemical intermediates.

Pulping & Bleaching Chemistry research is being carried out by Hasan Jameel, Adrianna Kirkman and Richard Phillips, along with contributions from various other faculty members. Topics of interest include process modifications to pulping and bleaching to increase the cost-competitiveness of these processes, and integration of black liquor gasification into a kraft mill.

Production and Testing of Wood, and Sustainable Biobased Composites

The production and testing of wood composites includes wood machining analysis and process improvements (Daniel Saloni) to wood composites, wood quality, (Perry Peralta and Ilona Peszlen), to management and marketing (Sudipta Dasmohapatra). Such research also contributes to initiatives led by David Tilotta in Resilient Housing and indoor air quality.

  • New wood composites such and solid or hollow-core cross laminated timber panels
  • Sustainable supply chains and processes for solid wood fuels
  • Characterization of genetically engineering wood
  • Processing of wood and non-wood materials into value-added composites
  • Resilient housing and opportunities for enhanced performance

Wood Products Extension

Wood Products Extension, led by Phil Mitchell and David Tilotta, conducts applied research and technology deployment in wood products processing, wood drying, lean manufacturing and sustainable housing. These efforts serve small industries and other clients across the state of North Carolina. Recent work has focused on adding value to locally under-utilized wood species, business to business supply chains, understanding customer motivations and studying the barriers to commercialization of new wood composites.