(363e) Lignin Utilization in Production of Electrospun Carbon Nanofibers with Potential for Energy Storage Applications
Lignin, a naturally existing biopolymer contained in lignocellulosic biomass at 20-30% on average, is a high-volume byproduct of wood pulping which in the U.S. alone exceeds 15 million tons per year. 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 higher 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 low-cost lignin, however, have potential applications that rely on large specific surface area such as catalyst support, supercapacitor electrode, and hydrogen storage materials. In this research, innovative carbonaceous nano-fibrous felts with high specific surface area were developed by electrospinning of 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 up to 19.4-fold larger pore volume and 7-fold greater specific surface area than the PVA-based control prepared without use of lignin, and are therefore expected to find important commercial applications.