With the aim of investigating kraft lignin as a raw material for carbon fibre production, different lignins have been stabilised in air at conditions varied according to a full factorial experimental design. The lignins under examination were purified kraft lignin powders originating from birch, spruce/pine and Eucalyptus globules, as well as lignin fibres originating from birch with 5% poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) added as a plasticiser. The influence of temperature, time and heating rate on yield and glass-transition temperature (Tg) was investigated. The highest yield was achieved after stabilisation at 280°C during 2 h with a heating rate of 0.2°C min-1. The Tg of all lignin powders was increased when stabilisation occurred under harsher conditions. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis (XPS) of both the outer surface and the cleaved cross-section of individual lignin/PEO fibres showed a clear gradient in the degree of chemical modification, with the major change occurring on the surface resulting in the appearance of a skin-core structure after stabilisation. The behaviour of the lignin fibres during stabilisation is similar to that of pitch-based fibres, indicating good possibilities for lignin as raw material for carbon fibre production.
©2012 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston