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The first spool with lignin multifilaments

Published 10/03/2014
Innventia has successfully produced its first spool of lignin multifilaments for further converting to carbon fibres. The filaments are based on 100% softwood kraft lignin and were produced without additives. Innventia is now investing in new equipment for multifilament spinning and thus enhances the establishment of a Swedish test bed for lignin-based carbon fibre.

One year ago, Innventia's Hannah Schweinebarth awarded the Skills Prize by the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation. The prize of SEK 500,000, together with funding from Innventia and Valmet, enabled Hannah to spend six months at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee in USA, in order to develop new knowledge and competence on the production of carbon fibre from kraft lignin, a by-product from the pulp mill. Innventia has, thanks to the collaboration, gained access to equipment in larger scale, deeper connections, prominent research environment and opportunities to try new ideas. All this has brought results. In November, 2013, the first spool with lignin multifilaments from 100 percent softwood was produced with an average diameter of just over 10 micrometre.

"This is truly a milestone in the development. The fact that we can spin multifilament opens for better research and development, and for possibilities to develop demonstrators prior to industrial implementation," says Per Tomani, Team Leader Lignin & Carbon Fibres at Innventia.

Innventia is now investing in a new extruder for multifilament spinning of lignin. The new equipment will be installed in the beginning of summer 2014 in connection to the carbon fibre laboratory, which was inaugurated in October 2013. The laboratory has already been equipped with new equipment for monofilament spinning and a stabilisation unit. The new extruder will be accompanied with a specially designed oven for carbonisation, with funding from Vinnova. Thanks to these new investments, the possibilities for industrial implementation will be strengthened.

Innventia is also coordinating a project that has recently been granted funding to establish a test bed for the development of carbon fibre from lignin and to produce criteria for construction of a pilot facility. Innventia has been working with lignin-based carbon fibre since 2005. The LignoBoost process, which was developed in cooperation with Chalmers, made high-quality lignin available, and Innventia is currently coordinating a number of research and development projects in the lignin field. LignoBoost is now owned by Valmet, a supplier of technology and services to the process industries. The first industrial plant at Domtar's pulp mill in Plymouth, USA, started operations in 2013, and an investment decision has also been made regarding an installation at Stora Enso's pulp mill in Sunila, Finland.

"Carbon fibre from lignin is an expanding area for us. We are very pleased to now be able to move forward in our long-term investment to establish lignin as a raw material for industrial production of carbon fibres and carbon fibres composites in Sweden," says Peter Axegård, Director of the Biorefining business area.

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