High-Volume, Low-Cost Precursors for Carbon Fiber Production
Carbon fiber composite use in automobiles and light trucks could dramatically reduce energy use and engine-out emissions. However, worldwide capacity of 28,000 tonnes per year of carbon fiber from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and petroleum pitch could support limited automotive use. Production of high-volume, industrial-grade fiber from renewable and recycled polymers (lignin, recycled plastics, regenerated cellulosics) could meet automotive demand. Profiles of material volumes, carbon content, and melting points indicate several attractive candidates for production melt-spun carbon fiber feedstocks. Effects on the carbon fiber production cycle and its integration into automotive production are discussed.