Influence of Lignin modification on PAN-Lignin copolymers as potential carbon fiber precursors

Ramasubramanian, Gauri
Major Professor
Michael R. Kessler
Committee Member
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Materials Science and Engineering

Carbon fiber based polymer composites have been recognized as advanced materials for structural applications. The unique reinforcing abilities of carbon fibers with their combination of high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent fatigue resistance have made carbon fiber based composites exceptional compared to other fiber reinforced composites. However, the high cost involved in current precursor materials for carbon fibers has limited the widespread applicability of carbon fibers. Hence, intensification of research efforts towards cheaper and easily available raw material for fabrication of carbon fibers is justified. The growing demand for low cost carbon fibers for mainstream composite applications has driven recent interests in using lignin as alternative choice of material for carbon fiber precursor. Lignin is a highly aromatic, plant-derived amorphous polymer and has been considered as potential low-cost, bio-based carbon fiber precursor.

Copolymers of polyacrylonitrile/lignin were developed as alternative precursors for fabrication of raw fibers using conventional solution spinning techniques.

Lignin/polyacrylonitrile copolymers were successfully synthesized and characterized using FT-IR and NMR techniques. The thermal properties of the copolymers were studied by DSC and TGA analysis. The effect of chemical modification on the morphology and stability of the carbon fibers from PAN-Lignin copolymers has been studied using Raman Spectroscopy, X-ray Diffraction and Scanning Electron Microscopy. Modification of lignin prior to copolymerization provided a significant advantage in the improvement of precursor processability using solution spinning. Additionally, carbon fibers obtained from copolymers containing different varieties of lignins were examined. Carbon fibers produced from organosolv lignin/polyacrylonitrile copolymers exhibit promising carbon fiber structure when compared to softwood/lignin polyacrylonitrile copolymers.