Mehdi Tajvidi: Outstanding Research Award

The Outstanding Research Award honors faculty who make significant contributions to their profession and have demonstrated excellence in scholarship. 

Portrait of Associate Professor Mehdi Tajvidi.
Photo taken in adherence with health and safety guidelines.

Cellulose nanofibrils are miniscule. You would need 100,000 to cross the width of a single human hair. In the lab of Mehdi Tajvidi, Ph.D., these tiny structural building units of wood hold tremendous potential. 

The associate professor of renewable nanomaterials uses cellulose nanofibrils and their composites to invent better packaging and building materials. 

Pulpwood is a significant byproduct of timber harvest, especially on projects that aim to improve stand growth or reduce disease risk. Traditional market opportunities for wood pulp, however, are limited and Maine is beset with a surplus. Tajvidi’s research aims to turn that challenge into a lucrative opportunity for the industry while addressing other environmental concerns. 

Cellulose nanofibril additives and alternatives developed in Tajvidi’s lab offer renewable, biodegradable solutions to issues associated with cement, plastic, resin and other nonrenewable products. They also consistently outperform their traditional counterparts and offer health advantages to usersfrom food packaging with oxygen and grease barrier properties, to particleboard free of formaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen. A drywall alternative he is developing is lighter, fire resistant, and a better insulator than is currently used in construction. Tajvidi’s lab has also developed strong insulation and packaging products made completely from renewable resources.  

True to UMaine’s land grant mission, Tajvidi explores not only what is possible, but what is practical. His lab is also working to improve the refining process of cellulose nanofibrils to make mass production and commercialization economically feasible and collaborates extensively with the industry in Maine and beyond.

Tajvidi’s research has garnered more than $21 million in external funding and been the focus of 64 peer-reviewed papers, two book chapters, and more than 35 conference presentations since he joined UMaine in 2013. He is the inventor of four patents generated from his research. 

He also advances the work of others as a reviewer for journals and serving on editorial boards, and has served on the National Sciences Foundation’s Materials Engineering and Processing Review Panel. He has advised or co-advised more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are lead authors on his published papers.

At UMaine, he holds an appointment in the School of Forest Resources and cooperating appointments in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and Forest Bioproducts Research Institute.