Carbon fibre from wood raw material
Carbon fibre from wood

New application areas for forestry products

Can the lightweight materials of the future be made of carbon fibre from trees? Swerea has demonstrated that there are major benefits with using wood to produce lightweight, strong and inexpensive bio-based carbon fibre.

Today’s carbon fibre is typically based on non-renewable resources and is often expensive. Although high costs have limited usage, researchers at Swerea and Innventia have now shown that the traditional raw materials in carbon fibre can be replaced with forestry products.

Lignin and cellulose for new materials

Lignin and cellulose in trees are often used for paper pulp, but the wood now has a new application area. One major advantage of using forestry products for carbon fibre is that they are cheap. Consequently, both production and products become less expensive.

600 kilos lighter

An application area that could increase is in the replacement of steel in car chassis. A car with carbon fibre can be up to 600 kilos lighter, with reduced energy consumption as an inherent result. To increase use however, lower costs are necessary.

“When the raw materials are cheaper more companies will be able to use carbon fibre in their products, which in turn can save both weight and fuel,” says Carina Olsson, researcher at Swerea.

Cheaper manufacturing with new raw materials

Carbon fibre consists of thin strands of carbon and is used as reinforcement in various types of composite materials. Polyacrylonitrile is presently the most common raw material, but because it is rather expensive it is most often used in exclusive products.

The biggest advantage with the new fibres is that they are flexible to work with, which makes them unique in comparison to similar materials. This opens the way for continuous production of bio-based carbon fibre, which will lower production costs.