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DOE issues RFI on renewable carbon fibers; biomass-derived acrylonitrile

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000975) regarding the state of technology development and commercial readiness of emerging renewable carbon fiber (RCF) technologies. Information is also sought in identifying what barriers to commercialization exist and the appropriate role for DOE with regard to additional investment in RDD&D (research, development, demonstration and deployment) to promote broad adoption.

While carbon fibers are manufactured commercially using petroleum-derived acrylonitrile (ACN), there are emerging technology pathways to biomass-derived acrylonitrile (bio-ACN) that may offer a cost competitive and potentially high performance alternative.

DOE hosted a workshop on 4-5 June 2013 in Detroit, Michigan to understand the technology options, applications, and the state of the industry for carbon fiber composites, particularly with respect to expanding the use of these lightweight materials in the mainstream automotive industry. The focus of the workshop was on renewable precursors to carbon fibers that can displace fossil-based raw materials.

The purpose of the RFI is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other public and private sector stakeholders to assist DOE with the development of a strategic program in RCF and possibly issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that supports the development of RCF technologies.

The program could include, but is not limited to, investigations of biological and/or non-biological conversion and processing technologies to transform biomass components (cellulose, hemicellulose or lignin) into chemicals like acrylonitrile (ACN) that can be used in existing polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based manufacturing of high-performance carbon fibers.

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