The project ran between November 2018 and May 2019.
The project aim was to use a biorefinery by-product, lignin, to produce a 100% bio-based carbon fiber composites. Lignin from pulp mills was used as raw material for manufacturing both carbon fiber and polymeric matrix. This could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of this class of materials. Today, carbon fiber composites are produced from petroleum-based raw materials. Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is the main precursor for manufacturing carbon fiber and the polymeric matrix usually is epoxy or polyester. Developing biomass-based materials would help the Swedish forest industry to increase the value of an abundant by-product.
The project resulted in production of the first ever all-lignin based carbon fiber composite. This could be a potentially low-cost composite with a considerably lower carbon footprint compared to the current carbon fiber composites. In long term, production of a low-cost medium-quality carbon fiber in large-scale would create new energy-saving applications. This can be in form of manufacturing lighter vehicles to decrease the fuel consumption and increase the efficiency of the windmills through production of larger wind turbine blades.
The lignin-based carbon fibers used for manufacturing the all-lignin based composites were made at RISE. Synthesis of the lignin-based thermoset polymer matrix, manufacturing and testing the composite were conducted at KTH. The performance of this new composite was evaluated in terms of basic mechanical and physical properties. Higher performance can be achieved by further improvements of the both matrix and carbon fibers. Finally, the measured and estimated properties was used to evaluate potential application areas for this kind of material. This would be the areas which this material can compete with petroleum-based materials in the future.
RISE, KTH, RenCom, Valmet, Stora Enso, Södra, Fortum, Metsä, Klabin, Fibria, Altri, Domtar, Mercer, Sappi and Naviator.
The project’s budget was 500 000 SEK.