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Evaluation of Keratin–Cellulose Blend Fibers as Precursors for Carbon Fibers

Hilda Zahra, Julian Selinger, Daisuke Sawada, Yu Ogawa, Hannes Orelma, Yibo Ma, Shogo Kumagai, Toshiaki Yoshioka, Michael Hummel

Abstract: One main challenge to utilize cellulose-based fibers as the precursor for carbon fibers is their inherently low carbon yield. This study aims to evaluate the use of keratin in chicken feathers, a byproduct of the poultry industry generated in large quantities, as a natural charring agent to improve the yield of cellulose-derived carbon fibers. Keratin–cellulose composite fibers are prepared through direct dissolution of the pulp and feather keratin in the ionic liquid 1,5-diazabicyclo[4.3.0]non-5-enium acetate ([DBNH]OAc) and subsequent dry jet wet spinning (so-called Ioncell process). Thermogravimetric analysis reveals that there is an increase in the carbon yield by ∼53 wt % with 30 wt % keratin incorporation. This increase is comparable to the one observed for lignin–cellulose composite fibers, in which lignin acts as a carbon booster due to its higher carbon content. Keratin, however, reduces the mechanical properties of cellulose precursor fibers to a lesser extent than lignin. Keratin introduces nitrogen and induces the formation of pores in the precursor fibers and the resulting carbon fibers. Carbon materials derived from the keratin–cellulose composite fiber show potential for applications where nitrogen doping and pores or voids in the carbon are desirable, for example, for low-cost bio-based carbons for energy harvest or storage.


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