Managing for Quality and Innovation: Scott Leavengood is conducting research to measure best practices in quality management that lead to quality and innovation performance. Findings suggest three key areas of focus: 1) focus on the best practices — benchmark the competition as well as other high-performing companies; 2) focus on employees — cross-train wherever feasible and empower your employees to improve processes and satisfy customers and 3) focus on customers — assess their satisfaction, involve them in product development, communicate their needs to all employees. Summary of the research

Green Building Research: Dr. Chris Knowles and colleagues from the University of Oregon and Portland State University interviewed architects, engineers, contractors, and developers, to learn how they make decisions about structural building materials. Some of their key findings are: 1) Oregon design professionals generally have positive views about wood; 2) the structural system of a building is selected primarily based on building code and cost; and 3) FSC is viewed as the most unbiased forest certification scheme. More information

Dr. Lech Muszynski is conducting research to develop new bio-based composites as alternatives to petroleum-based products. His primary focus is on common items you see along highways: bright orange traffic cones, barrels, and dividers used at construction sites, and even the tiny plastic reflectors glued to highway surfaces to delineate traffic lanes. In fact, even metal guard rails, concrete sound barriers, and other items made of non-renewable resources are candidates for products that could potentially be made from bio-based composites. More information

Dr. Kaichang Li is conducting research to use cellulose to partially replace silica as a reinforcing filler in tires. The research indicates that using microcrystalline cellulose can reduce the energy required to produce tires, lower costs, and produce tires that better resist heat buildup. Article in the Oregonian

Dr. Kaichang Li develops a new group of adhesives that may revolutionize a large portion of the wood products industry - and have important environmental and economic benefits.

New wood plastic composites: Dr. Kaichang Li has developed new wood-plastic composites that are stronger and less expensive than any similar products now available – a major breakthrough for this growing industry.

Dr. Barbara Lachenbruch and colleagues have a paper accepted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled Maximum height in a conifer is associated with conflicting requirements for xylem design. The paper describes the mechanism that appears to control how tall Douglas-fir trees can grow. The pits on the sides of the tracheids (commonly called 'fibers') appear to be designed for high conductivity at the bottom of a tree, but further up the tree the pits appear to be designed to be able to keep air bubbles from entering into the tracheids. Because water is in tension in a tree and because that tension is higher at the top of a tree, entry of air bubbles can be disastrous for water transport. So although the pits high in the tree can keep bubbles from entering, their design drastically reduces their water transport. See BBC News Story

Dr. Chris Knowles and colleagues from the University of Oregon and Portland State University are joining forces to conduct research and outreach related to green building. With funding from Oregon BEST (the Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies signature research center), the team will develop a Responsible Material Selection Guide as well as workshop curriculum. This project will provide key information to Oregon’s construction professionals and graduate students, helping them make better decisions concerning building materials. More information

Dr. Joe Karchesy with colleagues from the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the US Forest Service recently discovered that heartwood extractives from several cedars and western juniper are effective in limiting the growth of Phytophthora ramorum - the fungus-like agent responsible for Sudden Oak Death Syndrome (SODS). SODS is a rapidly spreading disease (in both forests as well as nurseries) that can kill or injure several oak species and 100+ other species as well. For more information, see the news release from the Ag Research Service

Dr. Rakesh Gupta and colleagues are conducting research to understand the forces wood structures must withstand to survive hurricane storm surges and tsunamis. They recently tested a 1/6-scale house at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Laboratory in Corvallis. See the news story and accompanying video from KEZI news, Eugene.

Earthquakes and wine racks?: Dr. Rakesh Gupta and colleagues recently tested an earthquake resistant shelving unit for an Oregon wood products firm. And what better product to put on such a shelving unit than wine bottles!

Dr. John Simonsen and colleagues in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science filed a provisional patent on Cellulose Nanocrystal Electro-optic Devices. This new application for cellulose has the potential to replace the polymeric liquid crystals in conventional LCD devices with cellulose nanoparticles. Applications include cell phones, wristwatches, televisions, electronic paper and flat screen computer monitors. More information.