Whether vehicle components, aircraft or textile concrete, plastics and materials which are reinforced by carbon fiber are lightweight and tear-proof, which makes them very much in demand. Their disadvantage is that they are expensive and energy-intensive to manufacture. A new manufacturing technique however is set to change that. This is based on the doctoral thesis by Dr. Manuel Clauss entitled “Structural investigations into lignin-based carbon fibers” submitted to the Chair of Macromolecular Materials and Fiber Chemistry held by Prof. Michael Buchmeiser at the University of Stuttgart, in cooperation with the German Institute of Textile Chemistry and Fiber Research (DITF) in Denkendorf. Dr. Clauss has now been awarded with the Research Prize 2020 for his work by the German Carbon Group (AKK), part of the German Ceramic Society (DKG).
Clauss produces carbon fibers from waste wood
When looking for alternative raw materials for the production of carbon fibers Clauss opted for lignin, a waste product from wood pulping. The production process was described as far back as the 1960s, but it was not possible to implement it for technological reasons. Manuel Clauss has now managed to produce carbon fibers with competitive properties from the powdery brown substance lignin. Talking about his work, Manuel Clauss says “The particular challenge regarding lignin as a typical biopolymer is its complex and irregular molecular structure, which makes it much more difficult to process, analyze or chemically modify in any conventional way. Now we can treat lignin like a technical polymer thanks to a special process related to its controlled and almost linear chain length.” Prof. Michael Buchmeiser went on to emphasize the ecological aspects: “We’re using a renewable material and generating a huge amount of added value in the process.” There is interest from industry, and Buchmeiser ultimately expects a fiber which is around 50 percent cheaper.
For the past 55 years, the AKK has been an independent association as well as a scientific and technical platform within the European Carbon Association and the German Carbon Group. The AKK sees its role as exchanging experience and information in the field of carbon between teaching, science and industry. The research prize is worth 1000 euros and includes a two-year membership of the AKK.