The US Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has selected technology center Western Research Institute (WRI) to develop low cost carbon fiber components using various resources as the feedstock, such as coal and biomass.

The project has been kickstarted with DOE funding of more than US$3,700,000 and with partner cost share included, the overall value of the project as proposed is nearly US$7 million, according to reports.

Research organization Southern Research's Energy & Environment division (E&E) will participate as a subcontractor to WRI to provide renewable acrylonitrile produced from biomass-derived second generation sugars to produce carbon fibers.

‘At Southern Research we have developed an innovative, thermocatalytic process that converts second generation sugars obtained from biomass to acrylonitrile,’ said Amit Goyal, manager, Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis and principal investigator for Southern Research's E&E division. ‘90% of the world's carbon fiber production utilizes acrylonitrile as a raw material, growing at 11 to 18% per year. Due to the high growth rate of carbon fiber production, any reduction on GHG will be highly impactful,’ Goyal added.

Experimental data

The aim of the project is to expand the range of biomass feedstocks that the Southern Research process can use and to understand how the process is affected by impurities that change when different types of biomass and different biomass-to-sugar processes are used. Experimental data generated in this project will allow collaborators to better predict and improve the overall cost and application areas for carbon fibers.

Team members working on the project led by WRI are Ramaco Carbon LLC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Grossman Advanced Materials Group, Terra Power LLC, Autodesk Inc, Advanced Carbon Products LLC, and The University of Wyoming.

This story is reprinted from material from Southern Researchwith editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.