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Lignin Based Carbon Fibres for Composites

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LIBRE (Lignin Based Carbon Fibres for Composites)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

LIBRE will make a positive contribution to European society by enabling increased usage of composites in a range of industrial sectors, as well as facilitating sustainable manufacture of CF. The environmental and societal benefits derived simply from the use of composite materials will be greatly increased by establishing sustainable sources of supply for the different components of which they are comprised. For example, global wood pulp production in 2009 was 186 million metric tonnes. A theoretical supply of lignin from this production is at least 50 million tonnes. However, most of this lignin is not isolated today, but rather used, in the form of black liquor, to cover the internal energy demand of the pulp mills. However, as pulp mills become increasingly efficient, it will be possible to withdraw an increasing amount of lignin from the pulp mill and still achieve self-sufficiency in terms of energy. Theoretically, the pulp and paper industry can easily provide enough Kraft lignin to supply the world market of carbon fibers in the coming years; projections anticipate a bright future for carbon fibers from 2011 levels of 46,000 tonnes to perhaps 140,000 tons by 2020. LIBRE will greatly reduce the reliance on petroleum for CF manufacture, avoid the use of solvents and acid-based surface treatments and, overall, will have a hugely beneficial impact on the environment and society.

The overall project objectives are:
PO1. Investigate PF production from renewable bio-based lignin
PO2. Develop new efficient processes to convert PF to CF
PO3. Optimise PF processing properties
PO4. Tailor the CF-matrix interface
PO5. Optimise CF handling .
PO6. Produce prepreg using selected epoxy resin
PO7. Validate optimised CF
PO8. Carry out Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) f
PO9. Decrease the CO2 footprint
The following deliverables have been delivered on time:

D1.1 Report on the selection of bio-derived lignins and their chemical properties

D1.2 Provision of lignin to project partners

D2.1 Report on selection of grades of lignin and their chemical functionalisation

D2.2 Report on blending of chemically modified bio-polymers and thermoplastic polymers, and doping of susceptors, for initial PF production

D3.1 Interim report on PF spinning process for selected blends

D5.1 Interim report on plasma surface treatments

D8.1 Recommendations for optimal routes to sustainable exploitation of LIBRE materials and processes from completed Life Cycle Analysis

D9.2 IP assessment with partners and Dissemination Plan

D9.4Archiving Plan

D10.2Business Planning and Technical Exploitation group ratified

The following milestones have been achieved:

1. Delivery of suitable lignin
2. Spinnable lignin blends available
3. First round of LCA data collection complete
4. Business Plan complete
5. Comparisation of various recycling and reuse methods to choose most feasible

Main results achieved so far:

• Spinnable blends of lignin
• Lignin based precursor materials scaled up
• And converted to carbon fibre (CF)
• The mechanical properties of the carbon fibres exceed 1.0 GPa tensile strength and 100 GPa modulus.
• Dielectric heating for conversion of precursor fibres to CF a
• Two filed Patents, 1 Journal paper published (5 in prep), 13 conference contributions, 6 invited presentations, 8 press releases, 250+ twitter, 5,500 + web visits, Cutting Edge Special Issue in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules
At the end of this reporting period, the state of the art has been surpassed by LIBRE in the following aspects:

1. Blending lignin with bio-based Polymeric Materials to produce viable CF precursor materials2. Polymer Blends with Enhanced MW/RF Susceptibility 3. Polymer Crosslinking to Facilitate Stabilisation and Cyclisation

4. Precursor Fiber Production at pilot scale 5. MW Plasma Thermal Processsing 6. Surface Functionalisation

Expected results
• Sustainable polymer blends
• Spinning and carbonization behaviour established
• Novel fiber architectures defined
• Energy efficient processes enabled
• Maintain EU companies and Institutes at forefront of CF processing technologies.

Potential impacts of LIBRE

LIBRE will utilise lignin rich side streams from European biorefineries as carbon source materials. This new fully bio-based feed stock will allow European producers to rely less on imported precursors and imported CF, thereby securing a sustainable, indigenous, European CF manufacturing base not reliant on petrochemical based precursor materials.Between 40 and 50 million tons of lignin are produced worldwide per year; while some is being used for low- and medium-value applications (e.g. binding and dispersing agents in materials such as cement and bio-based leather substitutes most is currently treated as a non-commercialized waste product or a low value fuel to produce energy - representing a market value of roughly $730 million). In terms of applications global sales of CF reinforced polymers (CFRP) are forecast to reach $48.7B by 2020 representing almost a 50-fold increase in value compared to the current energy fuel value.
LIBRE will go beyond the state of the art by producing CF from cheaper bio based precursor materials utilising newly developed energy efficient microwave processing techniques. Thereby producing cheaper CF which as a result is expected to be in greater demand than forecasts for automotive and energy applications

The LIBRE consortium will validate five new bio based products in WP7: which will include components for automotives, components for construction and 5. Wind turbine blades

LIBRE will establish a new value chain for lignin by utilizing low commercial value waste material (WP1) to produce CF which will inturn be processed into CFRP for high value added applications in the automotive, energy and construction sectors (WP7)

LIBRE will increase competiveness through 1) the liberation from petroleum based products such as PAN precursor, 2) novel routes for the reuse of waste lignocellulose streams and a more cost effective production base allowing new materials and materials processing techniques to be developed cheaply and efficiently. LIBRE will enable EU industries to lead the way by directly targeting end users in the transportation, energy and construction industries. LIBRE will aid in the transition towards a competitive European bio economy with all the associated societal implications in terms of jobs creation in rural areas, and sustainable development.

Supply chain impact - CF production has been almost exclusively geared to the aerospace industry, Formula 1 and high-performance road cars. Consequently, the current global manufacturing capacity is inadequate for the escalating demand from other sectors and the small number of CF producers in Europe in turn limits price competition. The high price involved in the manufacturing of aerospace-grade CF, is not acceptable in other less value added sectors. Since the bulk of CF is manufactured either outside of Europe or by non-European companies, industry in Europe is hostage to global Markets and the inherent price fluctuations, outside of its control. Furthermore, currently the vast majority of CF is manufactured from petroleum-based precursors by high energy-consuming processes. The situation in Europe is not, therefore, sustainable in the long term. LIBRE directly addresses this.
LIBRE project Infographic