Lab Spotlight

USDA Forest Service’s Carbon Foam for Lignin

Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)

Carbon foam, a porous web of carbon atoms that form a lightweight structure, is a breakthrough in material engineering technology. Its mechanical structure and physical properties make the material uniquely suited for energy storage, stabilizing high-intensity flames, microwave reflection, electromagnetic interference, and temperature maintenance. Scientists at the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) are working with Domtar, Inc.—a sustainable pulp, paper, and personal care company—to develop high-value carbon foam from lignin, the substance in a plant’s cell walls that makes it rigid. This work is funded under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.

Photo credits: Zhiyong Cai/USDA Forest Service

Since 1910, the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, has used science and technology to conserve and extend the nation’s forest resources. Many everyday products and processes have been improved through FPL research, such as building products (structural and composite), housing, paper, bridges, adhesives, packaging, recycling, biofuels, and wood preservatives.

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