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Expanding my skill in carbon fibre research

Published 21/05/2014

During the spring of 2013 I was awarded the Skills Prize from the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation. Through this I was given the opportunity to work as a visiting scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee (UT), expanding my own and Innventia’s understanding of the carbon fibre field.

After travelling for more than 13 hours straight I landed at Tyson McGee Airport in Knoxville, TN. Although it was late afternoon, the weather was still hot and as I walked past the pool at the apartment complex that was going to be my home for the next six months I had a Melrose Place moment. 

When I had cleared the red tape at ORNL, although my red badge still screamed foreign spy, I could begin my research. In collaboration with my colleagues at Innventia, I had already prepared a number of different lignin samples ready to become carbon fibre precursor candidates. Because of both ORNL and UT’s excellent equipment park I was able to work with and learn a lot about melt extrusion of lignin. However, all was not hunky-dory. Anyone who has come into contact with lignin knows that it is a tricky business getting the material to cooperate. I also found out that working in the US is not the same as working in Sweden; the hierarchy within companies was more pronounced compared to Sweden, something I at times found somewhat crippling. 

Maybe due to southern hospitality or simply due to working with lot of good people (Amit Naskar, Joshua Perkins, Daniel Webb, Sam Akato, Fue Xiong and Halil Teknilap at ORNL along with Darren Baker, Omid Hosseinaei, David Harper and Derek Cressy at UT), I managed to produce some great results. For example, we were able to produce Innventia’s first spool of multifilament fibre consisting of 100% softwood lignin. The fact that we will soon be able to do this at Innventia is thrilling!

When I returned to Sweden at the end of February it was a bittersweet moment. I had met a lot of great people, on both a professional and a personal level. Also, I felt that I had gained a lot of new knowledge that would be helpful in future, not only to me but also to Innventia and the development of low cost carbon fibre from lignin. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I am very grateful to the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation for giving me this opportunity.  

The Skills Prize is an annual scholarship granted a researcher within the Swedish forest industry, which is awarded to enable someone to travel abroad for six months to do research and to expand their professional network.

    

Hannah Schweinebarth med kolfiber
Hannah Schweinebarth works in the group Biorefinery Processes and Products at Innventia.

Hannah Schweinebarth
+46 768767265
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