A new project which researches producing carbon fibre from forestry by-products has begun.
Carbon fibre is currently produced from petroleum which is expensive and detrimental to the environment. It is then added to plastic, as it improves its mechanical properties thereby forming a composite material, which is used in many products including automotive parts and wind-turbine blades.
The LIBRE project is led by Dr Maurice Collins of the Stokes Labs, Bernal Institute at University of Limerick (UL) and run in cooperation with European partners from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, UK and Italy.
The research aims to create carbon fibre materials in a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly way, by producing them from a naturally derived wood product called ‘lignin’, Dr Maurice Collins said.
He explained that LIBRE is expected to reduce production costs sufficiently to find mass-market applications for carbon fibre and this will enable European producers to rely less on imported carbon fibre, thereby securing an indigenous and sustainable European carbon-fibre manufacturing base.
Global market of US$80bn
The products are expected to be brought to market within four years, and Irish wind-energy company Eirecomposites and automobile manufacturer Fiat are among the end users for these products.
Irish wind-energy company Eirecomposites and automobile manufacturer Fiat are among the end users for these products, which are expected to be brought to market within four years.
Dr Terry McGrail, director of IComp, the Irish Composites Centre said, “the global market for composite materials in 2016 had a value of around US$80bn with a projected average compound annual growth rate of approximately 7% per annum across diverse sectors ranging from aerospace to automotive and construction.
“This emerging composites market offers many opportunities for Irish companies and the Enterprise Ireland Technology Centre programme is providing industry with a significant level of support through IComp.”
The project has been awarded €4.9m in funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking and was awarded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.