Ashley Morris, a CAER principal research engineer. (Photo courtesy Mark Mahan.)
Ashley Morris, a CAER principal research engineer. (Photo courtesy Mark Mahan.)

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) has received a US Department of Energy (DOE) grant to process coal tar pitch into carbon fiber.

The US$1.8 million project reportedly involves converting coal tar into mesophase pitch, a liquid crystal, which can then undergo multifilament melt spinning to produce ‘green’ (not yet carbonized) fibers, followed by continuous thermal processing, or oxidization. The researchers can then create woven preforms from the fibers for composites manufacture, as well as chopped carbon fiber for filled thermoplastics suitable for injection molding. The carbon fiber could be used in high stiffness, low-weight composites in applications such as passenger cars and light duty trucks, and also for use in aircraft and sporting goods. If successful, this new carbon fiber product could increase the value of coal tar pitch by up to 55 times its current value, according to researchers.

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