Carbon fibers from beechwood

Scientists and politicians at the High-Performance Fiber Center, the state-of-the-art center for high-performance fibers at the DITF. (Front row from right:) Minister Peter Hauk with Professor Michael R. Buchmeiser and Peter Steiger (both DITF board members) and the division heads Dr. Frank Hermanutz and Dr. Erik Frank. Photo: DITF


    Dr. rer. nat. Frank Hermanutz

    Head of Biopolymers, Wet Spinning Technology

    T +49 (0)711 93 40-140

Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Agriculture and DITF agree on research collaboration

Beech wood is a versatile, sustainable and CO2-neutral raw material. Although available in abundance, it has not been utilized to date. The state of Baden-Württemberg wants to change that and become a leader in harnessing of hardwood-based raw materials in the future. To that end, its Ministry for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection reached a research collaboration agreement with the German Institutes for Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (DITF) in Denkendorf on 9th August. In the planned research center for hardwoods, DITF scientists will investigate carbon fibers from beech wood. Agriculture Minister Peter Hauk visited the DITF to find out more about their work at the source..

The research center will connect eight research teams from different institutes and serve as a touch point for industry. The DITF research center is tasked to develop economic and environmentally friendly production processes for cellulose and lignin fibers made from beech wood for technical applications.

Fiber composites with carbon fibers are used in energy-saving, lightweight vehicles because they are heat-resistant and resilient. Materials reinforced with carbon fibers are becoming increasingly important not only in vehicle construction and space travel, but also in construction and many other industries. However, carbon fibers are still very expensive at present. So far, these fibers have primarily been made of polyacrylonitrile. This raw material is based on crude oil and the production of carbon fiber from this precursor produces toxic by-products that have to be cleaned at great expense. The scientists see advantages in reducing process costs and improving the ecology of carbon fiber production based on cellulose and lignin fibers.

Beech wood is a suitable alternative. In the laboratory, the DITF have already succeeded in producing carbon fibers from beech pulp and beech lignin using a new process that saves energy costs. Using beech wood therefore presents environmental as well as economical advantages. The DITF will integrate this research focus into research team 6 of the technical center for hardwood ("Technikum Laubholz").

"I am impressed by the variety of potential and existing processes for the production of carbon fibers. The time is ripe for large-scale application," said Minister Hauk after touring the DITF's technical centers.