Stora Enso and Cordenka have signed a joint development agreement to develop precursors for bio-based carbon fiber. The co-development is driven by the need for high performance carbon fiber in transportation, construction and power generation.
Stora Enso has been developing the technology for manufacturing carbon fiber from wood-based raw materials, i.e. dissolving pulp and lignin, at laboratory scale. The agreement announced today with Cordenka GmbH & Co KG, a leading producer of premium-quality industrial viscose fibers, aims at upscaling the precursor development process to pilot-scale operation. The precursor development is carried out with specialised manufacturing spinning equipment at Cordenka’s Obernburg production site in Germany. The venture is supported by BMC, owner of Cordenka, as part of their strategy to extend the reach of Cordenka into new growth markets and Asia.
“It is exciting to partner up with Cordenka to develop bio-based carbon fiber that replaces oil-based raw materials,” says Markus Mannström, Executive Vice President of Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division. “Our ambition is to provide industrial composite producers with a sustainable, yet cost-competitive, carbon fiber made from renewable and fossil-free materials. Thus, we continue to contribute to Stora Enso’s vision of a low-carbon society. We also look forward to attracting more partners downstream in the value chain, such as carbon fiber companies, to join the collaboration,” Mannström concludes.
“Stora Enso and Cordenka are a natural fit. Stora Enso has developed important new technology and Cordenka has critical manufacturing expertise. Both companies have been manufacturing products based on renewable resources for decades and both are market leaders in their respective fields. Making carbon fiber precursors for composite reinforcement from wood-based feedstock is a major leap forward in material science,” says Kurt Uihlein, Chief Marketing Officer of Cordenka.
Carbon fiber demand is increasing steadily at an annual growth rate of 10%. The target of the partnership will be on developing carbon fiber initially for industrial applications requiring low weight and high mechanical performance, such as pultruded laminates used in manufacturing wind energy rotor blades. Today, 20% of the global carbon fiber supply is used by the wind energy industry.
Nowadays, carbon fiber is made from PAN (polyacrylonitrile) which is an oil-based raw material. The raw materials for bio-based carbon fiber are cellulose and lignin, which come from trees. In the bio-based carbon fiber process, cellulose is converted to viscose and mixed with lignin to form the spinning dope. The dope is spun into precursor fiber that is thermally converted to carbon fiber.