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Cost effective lignin‑based carbon fibres for lighter cars

Cost-efficient carbon fibres would enable increased replacement of steel with light carbon fibre composites in cars. This would in turn decrease fuel/electricity consumption of the car fleet. The vision of the GreenLight project is to utilise the pulp mill by-product lignin as raw material for such carbon fibres.

Lignin - a valuable byproduct from the pulp mill

Aim and goal

The overall objective of GreenLight is to demonstrate a new bio-based and economically viable carbon fibre (CF) precursor – lignin – produced in Europe with European raw material.

The target is a cost-effective bio-based CF for use in reinforced composites delivering sufficient strength properties for large-volume automotive applications

Challenge

The main challenge is to reach material properties meeting high-quality product demands.

Solution

The idea is to tailor kraft lignin properties already in the lignin separation/upgrading and optimise the lignin for target automotive applications.

Main achievements

  • Continuous multifilament spinning (about 100 filaments) of 100% softwood lignin into high quality and low diameter filaments
  • The tensile properties of fibres are the highest reported for melt-spun pure ligninbased carbon fibres
  • The conversion process can be done at a relatively fast speed compared to what has been reported for lignin-based carbon fibres
  • Lignin-based carbon fibres could have a potential application in manufacturing short fibre composites (injection moulding & sheet moulding compound processes) which have lower production cost and broad applications
  • A new spinning process for lignin has been developed, which allows continuous spinning and winding with automatic spool change. Application for a patent is in progress.

Price & environment impact  

  • Cheap: could be at or even below the minimum price range (9-12 EUR/kg carbon fibre) that is required for mass deployment in the automotive industry
  • Potentially lower price than the conventional PAN-based carbon fibre
  • Climate impact: 1.50 kg CO2-eq/kg carbon fibre. This is a reduction by 30% compared to the production of glass fibre and by 10 times compared to conventional PAN-based carbon fibre
  • New market segments could be opened for the carbon fibre industry and, thereby, for the pulp industry

Summary

Project name

Lignin-based carbon fibres

Status

Completed

RISE role in project

Coordinator, WP leader for 3 Workpackages: WP2 Stabilisation and carbonisation, WP5 Scalability and sustainability, WP7 Management

Project start

Duration

4 years

Total budget

2 600 088 €

Partner

Södra, FIBRE, STFI, Fourné, CRF, Podcomp, Conventive Composites

Funders

Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), Södra

Project website

Coordinators

Events

External press

Supports the UN sustainability goals

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
Katarina Ohlsson

Contact person

Katarina Ohlsson

Enhetschef

+46 10 228 45 55
katarina.ohlsson@ri.se

Read more about Katarina