Michigan Technological University has created the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute (MiFBI) to develop new uses for forest biomaterials.

Any organic material extracted from the forest is considered a forest biomaterial.Any organic material extracted from the forest is considered a forest biomaterial."We are looking to support existing industries while facilitating the next generation of forest biomaterials," says Mark Rudnicki, director. Goals include researching new wood-based products such as adhesives and green-platform chemicals. Plans also call for working on advancements in wood engineering and new uses for what was previously seen as waste from pulp and paper.

For example, a byproduct of the papermaking process is an organic substance called lignin. Scientists have recently been finding ways to use it as a fuel and as a carbon fiber. Rudnicki says that lignin-based carbon fiber can address the need for automotive lightweighting, for example as the car’s entire frame.

Another application is the engineered wood product called cross-laminated timber, which can be used in place of concrete and steel for tall buildings.

The Institute is also setting its sights on new ways to reuse wood waste. Some furniture companies in Michigan, for instance, generate cutoff and scraps from laminated particle board. Most of this is landfilled or burned. Researchers are studying whether these scraps can be ground up or liquefied for use in 3-D printing.