Mass transport and yield during spinning of lignin-cellulose carbon fiber precursors
Journal article, 2019
Lignin, a substance considered as a residue in biomass and ethanol production, has been identified as a renewable resource suitable for making inexpensive carbon fibers (CFs), which would widen the range of possible applications for light-weight CFs reinforced composites. Wet spinning of lignin-cellulose ionic liquid solutions is a promising method for producing lignin-based CFs precursors. However, wet-spinning solutions containing lignin pose technical challenges that have to be solved to enable industrialization. One of these issues is that a part of the lignin leaches into the coagulation liquid, which reduces yield and might complicate solvent recovery. In this work, the mass transport during coagulation is studied in depth using a model system and trends are confirmed with spinning trials. It was discovered that during coagulation, efflux of ionic liquid is not hindered by lignin concentration in solution and the formed cellulose network will enclose soluble lignin. Consequently, a high total concentration of lignin and cellulose in solution is advantageous to maximize yield. This work provides a fundamental understanding on mass transport during coagulation of lignin-cellulose solutions, crucial information when designing new solution-based fiber forming processes.