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Salmén, L., Bergnor, E., Olsson, A. M., Åkerström, M., and Uhlin, A. (2015). "Extrusion of softwood kraft lignins as precursors for carbon fibers," BioRes. 10(4), 7544-7554


There is much interest in using less expensive raw materials as precursors for carbon fibre manufacture to increase the utilisation of strong, light-weight composite materials in the transportation sector. One such potential raw material is lignin. Most studies exploring melt spinning of lignin have used lignins from organosolv or hardwood kraft delignification processes. There has been little success reported in utilisation of the more commercially available softwood kraft lignins. In this study, lignins from different softwood kraft cooking processes were investigated with respect to their melt spinning performance and conversion to carbon fibres. The isolated lignins differed mainly in molecular weight, glass transition temperature, and softening temperature. All of the lignins produced from the laboratory cooks could be extruded without any plasticizer addition. However, the lignins contained volatiles that resulted in bubbles being formed along the length of the fibres. After vacuum drying, at elevated temperatures to remove volatiles, only the lignin originating from conventional kraft cooking was able to be melt extruded without plasticiser addition; this lignin had the lowest molecular weight amongst the samples. The stabilisation and carbonisation of these fibres gave carbon fibres with strengths comparable to those produced from lignins of other origins.
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