Phones at the research facility were being answered by voice mail and like many federal agencies, its website was unavailable, with the exception of a single page that explained that "due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available."
The shutdown is another challenge for
"Anything we do, anything we build, any water we make better, any studies we're doing, it basically stops," Rains said last week from his office at the largely empty
But prior to last week, when the facilities were operating, Rains took time to talk about funding, research and the long-term future of the 103-year-old organization.
When FPL began, scientists worked on ways to better preserve railroad ties but progressed into making better wood for aircraft, waterproof plywood and stronger bowling pins. In recent years, the lab has been studying the uses of wood-based nanotechnology and in 2010 opened the
But the budget is a major concern, beyond the shutdown. The
Q. How do you plan in this kind of environment where budgets are unpredictable and
A. It's tough. Really tough. We're constantly worrying about whether we're going to have enough money to make fixed costs or (fund) a new initiative that comes on line. Right now we have two really fundamental great initiatives that go right to the heart of the mission of
Q. Are they related?
A. We grow about twice as much wood in this country as we use. That means the forests getting clogged up and little trees stay little and they start becoming what we call hazardous fuels. You're starting to see that dominantly in the West, where large fires are becoming the normal and large volumes of acres are getting burned up. We're trying to control that and protect people's lives and properties. With wood-based nanotechnology, we're taking the smallest piece of wood, the carbon molecule, if you will, and you add those things to products like car bumpers, wings for aircraft, body armor and laptop computers. All of a sudden, now, we've got a high-value market for what I call low-value wood.
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