Irish researcher to lead European project on carbon fibre

Team aims to cut cost and environmental impact of carbon fibre materials’ production

An Irish researcher based at the University of Limerick will lead a project to cut the carbon footprint of the production of carbon fibre materials by making it from forestry byproducts.

Dr Maurice Collins of the Stokes Labs, Bernal Institute at UL will head up the €4.9 million European Libre project, which is seeking to make carbon fibre from lignin, a product derived from wood, rather than petroleum.

Carbon fibre is added to plastic as a reinforcement to form a composite material and improve plastic’s mechanical properties.

“The production of carbon fibre from lignin will allow us to move away from the reliance on fossil fuel,” Dr Collins said.


Mass market

It could also cut costs for the production of carbon fibre products, which could open it up to the mass market. Among the industries that could benefit are aerospace, automotive and construction.

“Together, the project partners will create new innovative materials and manufacturing processes capable of lowering the cost of end products by 30 per cent while cutting in half the CO2 footprint of carbon fibre production,” Dr Collins said.

Libre is being co-ordinated by Dr Collins and run in cooperation with partners from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, UK and Italy.

The global market for composite materials last year had a value of around $80 billion , according to Dr Terry McGrail, director of IComp, the Irish Composites Centre. Average growth is expected to be about 7 per cent.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist