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Potential future applications

Carbon fibre is therefore currently used primarily in applications with a demand for high mechanical performance, such as sports equipment, aircraft, satellites, Formula 1 cars, pressure vessels, specialized tools, wind turbine components and for reinforcing concrete in areas with a high risk of earthquakes.

Current research shows that lignin-based carbon fibre can be optimised for both structural (load-bearing) and non-structural applications. Timewise, the non-structural applications are probably closer to a market launch.

A small amount of lignin extract from a modern kraft pulp mill can be used as load-bearing carbon fibre in the lightweight car of the future.

Road map Vision Carbon fibre Innventia

It is obvious that the potential is enormous. The lignin-based carbon fibre in this example saves 50 times more energy as compared to replacing oil with lignin in combustion. It is also clearly more resource-effective to make lightweight materials from lignin as opposed to using it to replace fossil fuel in combustion.

On average, less than 1 kg of carbon fibre is currently used per car. If this quantity were to increase to 10 kg or 100 kg per car, this would correspond to the use of 80,000 tonnes and 800,000 tonnes of carbon fibre respectively per year on a global basis. In view of the fact that the global production capacity in 2011 was less than 100,000 tonnes, this shows that a shortage could arise if demand increases in a single market area.

Potential applications for lignin-based carbon fibre include:

Structural applications

High-performance carbon fibre, e.g., aviation and aerospace (very long term).

  • Carbon fibre composites are widely used today in aviation and aerospace applications. These applications demand a high level of performance. Use of lignin-based carbon fibres will only be considered when high specific stiffness and strength can be achieved.

Medium-performance carbon fibre, e.g., the automotive industry (medium term, may involve a mixture of the polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and lignin-based carbon fibre) and to replace fibreglass (short term).

  • The use of carbon fibre composites in vehicles is expected to increase significantly during the next few years. Lignin-based carbon fibres with high stiffness may hasten the broad use of composites in cars by a favourable price in combination with rational production technology.
  • There are requirements in EU's End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELV) for the automotive industry to maintain a low ash content of residual products, which can be achieved by replacing fiberglass with carbon fibre in composites.

Non-structural applications

Thermal insulation.

  • Carbon fibre is an excellent thermal insulator and could therefore be used in the near future as insulation materials within the construction sector and other sectors.

Electrodes for batteries.

  • By making carbon fibres electrically conductive, they have the potential to be used as electrode materials in batteries. In particular, they can be used in the new carbon fibre battery concept in which the fibre is coated with a thin polymer electrolyte, which has been developed by Swerea SICOMP. A patent application has been submitted for this concept.

Hydrogen gas storage.

  • Lignin-based carbon fibres can be processed so that they have a very high pore volume which can be used for gas storage. A very high capacity for the storage of hydrogen gas has been achieved in trials carried out by Innventia.

Multifunctional applications

Separators in super capacitors.

  • The electrodes in a super capacitor are separated by a permeable separator material with electrical insulator properties. By using carbon fibre, these properties are likely to be achieved.

Load-bearing electrodes in super capacitors and batteries.

  • Structural battery composite materials can be manufactured by using polymer electrolyte-coated carbon fibre. It is also possible to use such fibres in electrodes for structural super capacitor materials.

Logo Road-map 2014-2025

Contact

Per Tomani
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