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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Transforming Wood into a Green, Renewable Electronic Material

This project will develop flexible piezoelectric materials (e.g., ultrasonic transducers for medical imaging, tactile sensors for surgery, actuators for precision motors, and accelerometers for electronics) based on cellulose that are green and that outperform current state-of-the-art piezoelectric materials. Cellulose is naturally generated by plants such as trees, cotton, and hemp or from microbes such as bacteria, algae, and fungi. It is the most abundant natural polymer on earth and provides a sustainable, green resource that is renewable, degradable, biocompatible, and cost effective.

Current commercially employed piezoelectric materials such as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) are non-degradable. The nanocellulose-based piezoelectric materials that will be developed here will be highly renewable and highly biodegradable, thereby dramatically improving environmental sustainability and reducing the accumulation of electronic waste in landfills.

This research may lead to a new class of electronic materials derived from an abundant renewable resource with the potential for a transformative impact on the electronics industry and for new biomedical applications. The results obtained in this project will also provide a strong foundation to position the campus to become a leader in nanocellulose-based materials research.

Principal Investigator

  • Michael Arnold
    Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Padma Gopalan
    Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Izabela Szlufarska
    Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Xudong Wang
    Professor of Materials Science and Engineering


  • Zhiyong Cai
    Supervisory Materials Research Engineer for the U.S. Forest Service R&D, Forest Products Laboratory