ORNL has discovered several ways to melt spin carbon fiber from lignin: from a mixture of renewable lignin and recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polymers, from carbon nanotubes mixed with lignin, or from lignin alone to produce much cheaper carbon fiber products.
Precursors must be “spun” from the bulk form into fibers that can be transported through stabilization, oxidation, and carbonization processes, converting the precursor fibers into finished carbon fibers. Melt spinning is likely to be the best path to a low-cost lignin precursor fiber. Solvent spinning uses a polyacrylonitrile precursor, requires expensive solvent handling equipment and processes, and tends to produce fibers with physical flaws arising from volatile residuals in and on the fibers.
Using ORNL methods, carbon fiber precursors can be made from inexpensive, renewable Lignin raw materials. The process is efficient in both time and capital.
Activated carbon fibers and engineered forms from renewable resources, U.S. Patent 7,727,932, issued June 1, 2010, Fredrick S. Baker.
- Patent 7,727,932 (UTB ID 1575) deals with producing carbon fibers, not from current fossil sources: coal, oil, and natural gas, through energy-intensive processes; but, from renewable lignin, though less intensive means.
Other patents pending:
- Melt-spun carbon fiber precursors containing lignin (UTB ID 0968) deals with making melt spun carbon fiber from a mixture of renewable lignin and recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polymers.
- Activated carbon fibers and engineered forms from renewable resources (UTB ID 1575 DIV, Patent Application 12/763,327) relates to an activated carbon fiber material having pore width distributions that are predominantly microporous, mesoporous or macroporous.
- Activated carbon fibers and engineered forms from renewable resources (UTB ID 2051) deals with blending carbon nano-tubes with lignin powder to melt spin it into a fine fiber (e.g., 10 micron in diameter). The spun fiber is thermally processed into carbon fiber using either conventional conversion techniques and/or the advanced processing techniques being developed by ORNL.
Other Intellectual Property:
- Rendering lignin melt spinnable (UTB ID 1741) provides background expertise in melt spinning carbon fiber from lignin. Precursors must be "spun" from the bulk form into fibers that can be transported through stabilization, oxidation, and carbonization processes that convert the precursor fibers into finished carbon fibers.
- Melt-spun carbon fiber precursors containing lignin (UTB ID 1772) provides background expertise supplemental to UTB ID 0968.
- Rapid stabilization/oxidation of lignin based precursors for carbon fibers (UTB ID 2069) provides background expertise to stabilize lignin based carbon fiber precursors using free radicals to increase oxidation.
Technology Commercialization Manager
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Office Phone: 865-576-9682