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The Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service has opened a $1.7 million pilot plant for the production of cellulose nanocrystals, which have the potential to be stronger, stiffer, and lighter than Kevlar or carbon fibers.
It appears that the lab has been researching the useful properties of these nanocrystals, which is a good thing. However, I can’t help wondering why they are now building a production plant. Shouldn’t this be left to the private sector? What business is it of the Forest Service to be a producer of this product? It could be that the plant is aimed not at production but at figuring out how to make it affordable and practical, a goal that might make sense for a government agency to pursue. If not, however, it seems inappropriate for a government agency to use taxpayer dollars to run a facility aimed at selling a product to the private sector.
The article, as well as the lab’s webpage, do not make this clear.