Southern Researchers moves into phase 2 of DOE-funded development to convert biomass sugars to acrylonitrile

March 1, 2018 |

In Alabama, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Southern Research for an award of up to $5.9 million to advance production of high-performance, low-cost carbon fibers from biomass. The DOE award will fund development of a multi-step catalytic process for conversion of sugars from non-food biomass to acrylonitrile – a key precursor in the production of carbon fiber.

Thanks to its high strength and lightweight, industrial demand for carbon fiber continues to grow in a number of fields, including defense, space, aviation, automotive, wind turbine production, and sporting goods manufacturing.

At its Durham, North Carolina facility, Southern Research is developing a method of producing acrylonitrile and other bio-based chemicals using renewable, non-food-based biomass feedstocks.

The DOE’s initial award, announced in July 2014, was divided into two stages. Phase I called for the completion of lab-scale studies to demonstrate the process and verify techno-economic viability. Phase II consists of constructing and operating a pilot plant to scale up the process to produce kilogram levels of acrylonitrile while demonstrating process reliability and product validation.

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