New research claims to improve design and synthesis of carbon fiber precursor polymers

This research has led to the synthesis of nearly 10 precursor polymers with high molecular weight and uniform order and distribution of co-monomers.

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Australia's Deakin University says that a researcher from the university has reportedly improved the methods for the design and synthesis of high-performance carbon fiber precursor polymers. Nisa Salim, a researcher within Deakin’s carbon fiber research facility, Carbon Nexus, has developed advanced polyacrylonitrile polymers capable of producing fibers with enhanced structure and properties, using sequential distribution of monomers in conjunction with RAFT technology.

Salim’s ‘breakthrough’ will enable the making of polymers that are capable of producing carbon fiber with enhanced structure and properties. The improvements are a result of Salim’s Victoria Fellowship, which last year enabled her to visit several overseas carbon fiber composite research facilities in the U.S.

Salim spent nearly two months at the Polymer School at the University of Southern Mississippi, working with professor Jeff Wiggins, whose research group has recently developed advanced protocols and customized laboratory facilities to design and synthesize the next generation of carbon fiber precursors using a variety of technologies including semi-batch RAFT polymerization.

The collaborative research between the Polymer School and Deakin University has led to the synthesis of nearly 10 precursor polymers with high molecular weight and uniform order and distribution of co-monomers.

Also as part of the fellowship-funded study tour, Salim experienced hands-on training on the customized wet spinning line at the Centre for Applied Energy Research, University of Kentucky, where she worked in partnership with the carbon materials group led by Mathew Weisenberger.

“I had the opportunity to make my own customized precursor fibers, by changing spinning conditions. The spinning of fibers on a customized pilot scale facility was a wonderful experience,” Salim says.

“A critical challenge of wet spun fibers is the presence of voids developed during the coagulation process. Previously, there were no reliable procedures to quantitatively measure the size and volume of pores in the fibers. The research program helped us to combine the right skills and shared knowledge to develop a method to quantify the porosity of these fibers. We are all excited about the outcomes of this research. The program I selected was perfect for me, I met so many amazing people,” Salim says.

The Deakin-CSIRO partnership is now commissioning a pilot scale wet spinning facility, to be based at the University’s Waurn Ponds campus, which will complete the carbon fiber value chain from molecular level synthesis of precursors through to fabrication of composite laminates using high quality carbon fiber manufactured on-site.

Salim is an Alfred Deakin Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at IFM and she is currently working with IFM’s Australian Research Council Future Fellow Associate Professor Joselito Razal to develop the new polymer formulations followed by wet spinning for making high performance precursors and carbon fiber.

The Victoria Fellowship is an award given by Veski to leading young scientists to undertake programs in an overseas organization on cutting edge technologies that contribute to Victoria’s social/economic and scientific advancement.