WSU researchers report lignin-based carbon fiber breakthrough

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In Washington, researchers have developed a new approach to turning lignin into carbon fiber suitable for automotive applications.

In a presentation at the recent National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers from Washington State University revealed how they were to develop strong carbon fiber using lignin and polyacrylonitrile.

Unlike previous Oak Ridge National Lab work with PAN and lignin that produced carbon fiber that was too brittle for automotive applications, WSU used melt spinning to melt the two materials together into a single, strong fiber.

“You elevate the temperature of the polymer blend until it melts, so it can flow,” says Jinxue Jiang, Ph.D.. “Then, you spin these polymer melts until the fiber forms.”

The result was fibers that were 20-30% lignin without losing any strength.

The fibers could eventually be used in automotive applications such as internal parts, castings and tire frames.