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At present, the expertise and experimental resources for continuous manufacture of lignin-based carbon fibre is lacking, particularly stabilisation and carbonisation, where a continuous fibre-stretching process is required in order to achieve good mechanical properties. How environmental exposure affects mechanical performance and long-term properties is another area where additional knowledge is needed.

More information is also needed about how to surface treat lignin-based carbon fibre in order to achieve good compatibility with the polymer in the composite material and how the fibre functions in the manufacturing process. This is a specific area of great significance for the effective use of lignin-based carbon fibres in different composite systems and where Swerea SICOMP in cooperation with Innventia intends to develop tools and solutions. This will require significant effort over the course of several years on different scales (mono-, multi- and pilot scales) before the time comes to expand to demo/full scale.

Equipment is lacking for developing the technology on a continuous pilot scale. Investments are necessary in new equipment with greater capacity and performance in order to develop lignin-based carbon fibre from kraft lignin. Innventia is now working to secure this strategic investment, and place it close to Innventia's expertise in lignin and lignin-based carbon fibre.

At a higher system level, life cycle analyses should be carried out on the entire value chain, including use and recycling. Carbon fibre production itself is an area where Innventia in particular will develop knowledge, while environmental and system-related aspects that cover the whole of the value chain are being studied as part of the close cooperation between Innventia and Swerea SICOMP.

In an estimated two to four years all the data will be collected that will be needed to inform the decision on establishing a demonstration facility for lignin-based carbon fibre including surface treatment, with an annual capacity of approximately 50 tonnes. The demonstration facility has multiple aims: to train operators, to test critical process stages, to define optimal process conditions and to test components in different applications, all of which will reduce the risks in industrial production.

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Per Tomani
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