Harper International finalized a contract with the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for a full pilot-scale carbon-fiber process line valued at approximately $12 million. The line is a custom-designed conversion process to support ORNL’s low-cost carbon-fiber research and technology transfer. The line incorporates Harper’s proprietary multi-flow oxidation oven technology, advanced LT and HT slot furnaces rated for 1000°C and 2000°C respectively, pre- and post-treatment fiber conditioning, gas treatment and handling, and material-transport systems.
One of ORNL’s initiatives is directed toward the utilization of lignin as a precursor to enable low-cost production of carbon fibers. Lignin is a renewable resource material that is separated from paper mill and/or biorefinery cellulose and considerably less costly than traditional precursor material. The primary objective is to develop more energy-efficient, cost-effective materials and processes for production of affordable carbon fibers for use in composite materials for high-volume energy applications.