Advanced materials technologies

The development of advanced materials and composites allowing new functionalities and improved performance is indispensable for the competitiveness of forest-based industries. The rich and complex chemical and physical composition of wood, bark (including cork) and other parts of a tree, contain the potential for a wide range of innovative properties to be developed and incorporated in future wood-based products.

Poplar 3D (Photo by University of Ghent)Poplar 3D (Photo by University of Ghent)

The use of extracted wood polymers, fibres, lignin and other organic macro-molecules will aid the development of ultra-lightweight composites for use in construction, interior design, transport and packaging. Advances in the handling of nano- or micro-fibrillar cellulose will enable totally new bio-based materials while reducing resource consumption. This will create the opportunity to substitute a wide range of products based on non-renewable materials with wood-based products.

The generation of smart materials that react in an engineered way to stimuli such as electrical current, temperature fluctuations, or chemical compounds would be useful in a broad range of domains, such as wood preservation, healthcare, packaging and the media. Advanced wood-based materials with innovative self-healing properties will reduce maintenance needs significantly.

(Photo by UPM)

The sector is increasingly developing new wood-based advanced materials aimed at enhancing efficient product reuse, recycling and end-of-life use (cradle to cradle), paving the way to a low-carbon economy. 

New materials and their functionalities will have to be characterized using suitable new methods and measuring techniques, which have yet to be developed.