EU Research Project to Further Develop Carbon Fibre from Kraft Lignin

Kraft lignin from Innventia's LignoBoost demonstration plant in Bäckhammar, Sweden.

June 29, 2015 - Södra — together with Innventia and seven other organisations — has been awarded an EU research project that aims to increase investments in development for manufacturing carbon fibre-reinforced plastic composites from kraft lignin. This initiative is of great significance in terms of access to bio-based products in a future bioeconomy.

In brief, the research project involves manufacturing carbon fibre-reinforced plastic composite with good performance and at a lower price than is currently the case. Lignin from wood is used as the main carbon fibre raw material. The aim is to demonstrate components for the automotive industry by tailoring the raw material, the manufacturing process for carbon fibres and different manufacturing techniques in which the focus is on replacing traditional, heavier materials in cars with lightweight composites.

"The project enables us to come one step closer to the commercialisation of carbon fibre from lignin," says Södra Innovation & New Businesses' Fredrik Gellerstedt. "If we can create this, it will result in minimised carbon dioxide emissions globally and lead to the continued development of a product that has been assessed as having a highly profitable market."

Innventia, part of RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, is hosting the project and coordinate its realisation. Together with Chalmers University of Technology and industrial partners, Innventia has developed the LignoBoost process, which produces pure lignin — a requirement in order to manufacture carbon fibre.

Research and development at Innventia has resulted in ever better lignin qualities adapted for carbon fibres and for other applications (e.g. for activated carbon, batteries and binders). Through collaboration with Swerea SICOMP, a partner of this new EU project, the two research institutes cover the entire chain from pulp mill to ready-made composite.

"We are extremely proud of the team of competences that provides excellent conditions for driving development towards making lignin-based carbon fibres commercially available for lightweight materials," says the project's coordinator, Per Tomani. "Thanks to excellent collaboration between Innventia and Södra, we finally have the resources to start linking up the entire value chain, from forest and pulp mill, and onwards to a composite for use in a car."

The GreenLight research project is taking place within Bio-Based Industries, a partnership between European industrial companies and the EU. The companies involved in the project come from throughout the value chain, from forestry to finished product.

The consortium has been granted EUR 2.6 million for the project, which will run for four years from summer 2015 onwards.