Southern Research project targets low-cost carbon fibers

SR Carbon Fibers Process
Amit Goyal, Ph.D., is leading a team of scientists at Southern Research that has developed a cheaper and cleaner process for making acrylonitrile, a precursor for carbon-fiber production.

Dr. Amit Goyal

Dr. Amit Goyal

Goyal’s team has devised a multi-step catalytic process that converts sugars from non-food biomass to acrylonitrile through a pathway that could be around 20 percent cheaper than the typical production method. Their process also involves a substantial reduction in greenhouse gases.

The carbon fibers produced from this raw biomass process could interest automakers, which are looking at composite materials to reduce the weight of vehicles.

Goyal, manager of Southern Research’s sustainable chemistry and catalysis group, Energy & Environment, North Carolina, acts as principal investigator on the $6 million Department of Energy study.

Goyal and Tim Hansen, a Southern Research Energy & Environment director in North Carolina, discussed the project with Susan Neylon of ITECS, a management consulting firm that specializes in technology development.

Their discussion is featured on the ITECS blog.