Edward Jiang1, Bronwyn Laycock2, Pratheep K. Annamalai1, Nasim Amiralian1, Darren J. Martin1*


1Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
School of Chemical Engineering, The University of Queensland, Advanced Engineering Building, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia


The industrial uptake of strong and ultra-lightweight carbon fiber composites has been severely limited by the high cost of the petroleum-derived polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor as well as the energy input required for the manufacturing process. In this work, we show that the incorporation of 0.10% nanocellulose into a wet-spun PAN precursor fibre, can result in up to a 500% increase in the modulus, and a 700% increase in the strength of the final carbonised fibre (Figure 1). This is particularly important given that the mechanical performance of a carbon fibre is directly proportional to the amount of heat energy consumed in the manufacturing process. Through this, the use of functional nanocellulose fillers offers a unique approach to reduce the energy costs of the carbon fibre manufacturing process.

To this end, we have tracked the chemical and mechanical changes of various wet spun nanocellulose-polyacrylonitrile composite fibres through both the thermal stabilisation and carbonisation processes. Mechanical and structural characterisation data indicate the profound effect nanocellulose fillers can have on the carbon fibre produced, while chemical monitoring through the stabilisation process has yielded new insights to our understanding of the key thermochemical reactions of traditional PAN-based carbon fibres. The effect of the aspect ratio of different nanocellulose fillers on the carbon fibre properties will also be discussed. This work provides the basis for future studies towards developing a more environmentally-friendly pure nanocellulose-based carbon fibre.