An example of a fine network of carbon fibers manufactured under the optimized conditions allowed by the research proven process. (Photo: Kanazawa University)
Faced with the threat posed by global warming, many groups of scientists are working hard to minimize the amount of fuel we use in our daily lives. Reducing the weight of vehicles will in turn decrease the amount of fuel required for their operation, and will help mitigate global warming as well as save the user money.
In a recent study, the team made up of, among others, László Szabó and Kenji Takahashi, both from the University of Kanazawa in Japan, has chemically modified a waste material from the paper industry, and processed it into a possible lightweight material and strong, ideal for achieving that reduction in weight in cars without compromising its robustness. This technological advance can improve fuel economy in private and public transportation.
The researchers started with kraft lignin, a by-product of a common process performed on wood pulp. Paper mills often burn kraft lignin for power, because it is difficult to use for other applications except a few very specialized ones. Chemical transformation of kraft lignin into a more useful material would improve the environmental sustainability of paper production.
Szabó and his colleagues have carried out a chemical modification of kraft lignin, optimizing the ability of this material to be compatible with another polymer called polyacrylonitrile, and thus prepare quality carbon fibers with which to manufacture a composite, resistant and lightweight material.
The process they have used generates only a fairly benign by-product, acetone.
When Szabó and his colleagues reduce the cost of preparing their new carbon fibers sufficiently, the door will be opened to the future manufacture of lighter, more robust and more fuel efficient vehicles. Since all industries use transportation, all of them will save money in this chapter, and all businesses will be more environmentally sustainable.
Source: Redacción, N., 2020. Automóviles Más Ligeros Gracias A Un Material De Desecho. [online] Noticias de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (Amazings® / NCYT®). Available at: <https://noticiasdelaciencia.com/art/40148/automoviles-mas-ligeros-gracias-a-un-material-de-desecho> [Accessed 11 November 2020].
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