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Structural carbon fibres are currently mainly manufactured from the petroleum-based product polyacrylonitrile (PAN). A smaller quantity is manufactured from petroleum pitch, which is a by-product from certain oil refineries, mainly in the U.S. The supply of petroleum pitch is expected to be reduced as a result of the large-scale increase of the use of shale gas in the U.S.

The principle for the commercial production of carbon fibre

The first stage is spinning (extrusion) of PAN-fibres. Thermal processing is then carried out in a number of processing stages: stabilisation, followed by a carbonisation stage and high-performance carbon fibres are put through a graphitisation stage. The final stage involves the chemical treatment of the fibre surfaces to make them compatible with polymers. PAN-based carbon fibres are manufactured in a solvent-based process, while pitch-based carbon fibres are manufactured through melt spinning.

Road map Process Carbon fibre Innventia
Simplified process chart for commercial manufacturing of carbon fibres based on fibres from PAN (current) or lignin (in the future).

In principle, the same process stages apply for the manufacturing of lignin-based carbon fibre as for PAN-based carbon fibres. The production of lignin-based fibre allows a number of simplifications of the process compared with PAN-based fibre, and has, therefore, great potential for a more cost-effective process, making it highly competitive.

Logo Road-map 2014-2025


Per Tomani
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