Researcher Gets Award for Lignin Carbon Fibre Study

Innventia’s Hannah Schweinebarth has been awarded this year’s Skills Prize by the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation. The prize of SEK 500,000 will be used to develop new knowledge on the production of carbon fibre from the wood raw material lignin.

Hannah Schweinebarth is a young employee at Innventia’s Biorefinery Processes and Products group. There, she carries out research within the focus area Lignin & Carbon, which covers the entire lignin production chain from black liquor to end products, such as lightweight carbon fibre materials.

Thanks to the Skills Prize, Hannah will be spending six months at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, USA. ORNL is one of the world’s leading “green energy” research centres, and is currently building a pilot plant which will produce about 25 tonnes of carbon fibre from lignin each year. This will enable Hannah to learn more about the properties of lignin and how they affect the properties of carbon fibre. The University of Tennessee will also be involved.

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Carbon fibre from lignin is a new and expanding area for us, and one where we are now investing in more advanced equipment for further development,” says Peter Axegård, Director of Innventia’s Biorefining business area. “Knowledge building is also very important in terms of acquiring the necessary skills. We are therefore looking forward to this collaboration with ORNL, which will benefit Sweden and Innventia in many ways

Carbon fibre is strong and light, with many applications, especially in the automotive industry. Today, demand is mainly limited by the high cost, with the petroleum-based raw materials and fibre spinning accounting for around 50 percent of the cost. Lignin, a substance that is found in wood but removed during kraft pulp production, has great potential for use as a raw material for manufacturing carbon fibre. Innventia has extensive experience in the production and characterisation of lignin from black liquor. Innventia worked with Chalmers University of Technology to develop the LignoBoost process (now owned by Metso), making it possible to extract a very pure lignin that could be used as a raw material for carbon fibre. The first industrial LignoBoost plant is now starting up at Domtar’s pulp mill in Plymouth, USA.

[Images taken by Innventia & Johan Olsson]

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