Saudi Aramco accelerates carbon fiber research to reduce manufacturing cost

Collaboration between AramcoTech and ITA aims to investigate ways to reduce manufacturing costs of polyacrylonitrile (PAN)- and polyethylene (PE)-based technologies.
#precursor #polyacrylonitrile


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Saudi Aramco research and development center

Saudi Aramco research and development center. Source | Saudi Aramco

Saudi Aramco Technologies Company (AramcoTech, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) has initiated a research collaboration with the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University (Aachen, Germany), an internationally oriented research and training provider. AramcoTech says this research collaboration, which is initially planned to last two years, aims at lowering the cost of manufacturing standard modulus carbon fibers by using different petroleum-based precursors. More specifically, this collaboration will investigate different ways to optimize energy consumption in current polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based technology to shorten the residence time during the oxidative stabilization step. In addition, AramcoTech says the team will explore ways to overcome technical challenges in polyethylene (PE)-based technology, as well as conduct a techno-economic viability study to outline plans to build the first semi-industrial line in the world.

According to the company, the carbon fiber manufacturing process is relatively energy-intensive —  and with conventional processing using a carbon fiber-grade polyacrylonitrile (PAN) — precursor is over 50% of the total cost. Therefore, efforts in lowering the cost of carbon fiber manufacturing are already underway mainly to improve the energy consumption at different levels of the heat treatments (i.e. oxidation and carbonization), via pre-oxidation treatments and different plasma- and/or microwave-assisted heating approaches. Alternatively, Polyethylene (PE) precursors have proven to be a cost-effective option to reduce carbon fibers manufacturing costs, due to their high carbon content, low-cost, and melt-spinnability, unlike commonly used PAN precursors.

AramcoTech says it is targeting a 50% reduction in the carbon fiber manufacturing cost, which could result in accelerating the adoption of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) beyond high-end sectors (e.g. automotive, wind energy and pipeline).

To reach out about potential collaboration or learn more about ongoing R&D activities, please contact Dr. Mohamed Bouhrara, Saudi Aramco’s R&D program leader for Carbon Fiber Technologies at mohamed.bouhrara@aramco.com or by phone +966-13-872-3297. 

This post is courtesy of the CompositesWorld and AZL Aachen GmbH media partnership.