US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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David Vahey

David W. Vahey

Materials Research Engineer (Volunteer)
Forest Products Laboratory
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: 608-231-9304
Fax: 608-231-9538

Current Research

My main research interest has been the study of fiber and stiffness orientation in paper and their influence on paper performance. Lasers, ultrasonics and image analysis are the main tools used for these investigations. Most work has focused on in-plane distribution of fibers in paper, but, in cooperation with colleague John Considine, study has expanded to the poorly understood distribution of tilted fibers in paper and its possible importance to paper strength. Optical tools used in this research have evolved toward the study of fibers as they exist in the tree itself. Colleague Tim Scott and I have developed a prototype instrument called Ring Profiler for imaging tree cores to produce a map of density development throughout the life of the tree, a patented method potentially useful to the study and amelioration of climate change. Similar imaging tools have been applied to measurement of fiber sedimentation and formation in paper, the evolution of lignin removal in refining (using thermal imaging), and the evolution of ink removal in refining (using near-infrared light scattering).

Research Interests

New techniques for pulp, paper and wood structural measurements using optical and infrared imaging and light scattering

Past Research

Metrology using lasers, LEDs, spectroscopy (including UV, NIR and IR), optics (including fiber optics), imaging and image processing, piezoelectrics, ultrasonics, scattering and absorption (especially Kubelka-Munk), holography and speckle interferometry. 

Why This Research is Important

Increased application of modern measurement technologies to traditional subjects will open new opportunities.


  • Caltech, Ph.D. Lasers and Quantum Electronics, 1973
  • Caltech, M.S. Lasers and Quantum Electronics, 1967
  • MIT, B.S. Physics, 1966

Professional Experience

  • Materials Research Engineer, Forest Products Laboratory
    2005 - Current
    Metrology-Based Research for Advancing the Health and Productivity of Our National Forests
  • Principal Scientist, International Paper
    1989 - 2004
    Development of Proprietary Instrumentation for Paper Quality and Mill Productivity
  • Principal Physicist, AccuRay Corporation
    1982 - 1988
    Development of On-Machine Sensors for Improving Paper Quality
  • Principal Research Scientist, Battelle Memorial Institute
    1974 - 1981
    Integrated and Fiber Optics, Holography, Optical Inspection

Professional Organizations

  • Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), Member (1982 - Current)
  • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Member (1976 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Industrial R&D Magazine Top 100 Award, 1973
    An Instrument for the Measurement of Defects in Intraocular Lenses

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Last updated on : 08/27/2014