Carbon nanofibers from renewable bioresources (lignin) and a recycled commodity polymer [poly(ethylene terephthalate)]
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Utilizing inexpensive biorenewable and waste raw materials for the production of carbon nanofibers can pave the way for lowering their manufacturing cost. In this research, lignin is combined with recycled poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) to fabricate precursor fibers via electrospinning. The process is optimized using the Design of Experiments statistical methodology and fibers with minimum average diameter equal to 191 ± 60 nm are prepared. Investigation with Attenuated Total Reflection – Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy reveals the lignin structural changes induced by the solvent (trifluoroacetic acid), which is used for the preparation of homogeneous solutions of lignin and PET in various concentrations, while it gives an indication of the blending of the two electrospun polymers. The good miscibility between lignin and PET is also confirmed with Differential Scanning Calorimetry. The subsequent carbonization of the precursor fibrous mats results in a fibrous carbon structure with average fiber diameters similar to those of the precursor fibers. The successful transformation into carbon nanofibers is affirmed by Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy. The Carbon content of these nanofibers amounts to 94.3%.