(499f) Lignin-Based Carbonaceous Nano-Fibrous Felts

Lai, C., South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Fong, H., South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Zhang, L., South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Lignin is a naturally existing biopolymer widely found in lignocellulosic plant biomass at an average of 20-30%. It is also a high-volume byproduct of wood pulping which exceeds 15 million tons per year in the US. Nonetheless, lignin has been utilized mainly as a low-grade fuel for production of heat and power to date. There is however a growing demand to identify applications with high economic value for lignin. Although production of carbon fibers from lignin has been reported in literature, the low mechanical properties obtained so far have prevented their commercial use in reinforcement and/or composites applications. Nano-fibrous felts consisting of porous carbon nanofibers derived from lignin, however, have potential applications that do not rely on mechanical properties but on large specific surface area. The use of low-cost lignin as the precursor to develop carbonaceous nano-fibrous felts is anticipated to have a great impact on these applications. The nanomaterials processing technique of electrospinning provides a straightforward approach for convenient preparation of fibers with diameters ranging from tens to hundreds of nanometers. In this research, innovative carbonaceous nano-fibrous felts with high specific surface area were developed by electrospinning aqueous mixtures of alkali lignin and poly(vinyl alcohol) with varied mass ratios followed by heat treatments for stabilization and carbonization. The developed carbonaceous nano-fibrous felts had a large pore volume and specific surface area and are therefore expected to find important applications as catalyst support, supercapacitor electrode, and hydrogen storage materials.