The University of Limerick has indicated that the revolutionary technology developed there could produce cheaper and more durable carbon fiber, which could lead to making the cars of the future from waste paper.
Researchers based at the Bernal Institute at UL have produced carbon fiber from sustainable bio-resources. These materials have been used to produce car mirrors and wind turbine blade sections, paving the way for a more sustainable future for materials used in the automotive and wind power industries.
With a global composite materials market valued at over US $ 90 billion, UL is leading the way in the production of bio-based carbon fibers, which could signal the dawn of a new green industry for Ireland. .
“Our team has converted organic waste from forestry into carbon fiber which has already shown enormous performance potential in testing automotive, aerospace and wind power demonstrators,” explained Dr Maurice N Collins, Senior Lecturer at UL’s engineering school.
“Our technology significantly reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions during production, as well as the cost of carbon fibers. This is all the more important as carbon fibers are known for their high performance and high cost. In the future, we can expect better performing products at lower cost to the consumer, ”added Dr Collins, principal investigator and coordinator of the research project led by the Bernal Institute at UL.
With the emergence of biorefineries all over Europe, including Ireland, to convert plant material or biomass into fuel, heat, electricity and chemicals, large amounts of waste called lignin are produced as a result.
Between 40 and 50 million tonnes of lignin are produced worldwide each year and the advanced technology developed at UL can produce materials using conventional and newly developed processing and pretreatment techniques that are energy efficient, dry and waste free.
This means that these lignin-rich waste streams are converted to carbon fiber at UL using a production process that uses less energy and produces a smaller carbon footprint.
“Our biobased carbon fibers are used to produce composite materials for applications in the energy, aerospace, biomedical and automotive sectors, providing a high-end commercial route to recover forest waste. Explained Dr. Collins.
Dr Mario Culebras Rubio, researcher on the project and member of the Bernal Institute at UL, said he had also “been successful in exploring alternative uses of lignin to produce carbon-based nanomaterials for recovery. and energy storage “and that it was a starting point for future research proposals.
The research that developed this new production process began with LIBRE, a project that aimed to liberate the composites industry from its dependence on petroleum-based production, funded by the Consortium of Biobased Industries of the European Union in the framework of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.