On September 13, 2017, two ITA post-docs – Dr Gisa Wortberg and Dr Andreas De Palmenaer – received the prestigious Paul Schlack Man-made Fibers Prize. The award ceremony took place during the opening ceremony of the MFC Dornbirn in Dornbirn, Austria.
Dr Wortberg and Dr De Palmenaer have worked on the development of polyethylene-based carbon fibres as part of their doctorate at the Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University. Within the framework of their dissertations, it was possible to reduce the cost of carbon fibres drastically, which goes far beyond existing research efforts. Dr Wortberg focussed on the development of polyethylene-based carbon fibres for thermochemical stabilisation, while Dr De Palmenaer worked on the conversion of the polyethylene-based precursors.
As an alternative precursor material, polyethylene was chosen for carbon fibre production, which is spun in the melt spinning process and sulphonated, in order to be finally converted into carbon fibres. Dr Wortberg and Dr De Palmenaer have demonstrated the technical feasibility, the controllability of the process chain as well as the economic basic potential of the approach. In contrast to other research efforts, precursor development on an industrial scale and sulphonation and carbonisation is continuously.
Mission accomplished: drastic cost reduction of carbon fibres
The targets of the automotive industry with respect to price (5 – 12 €/kg) and carbon fibre properties (tensile strength: 1.730 – 2.800 MPa; E-Modulus: 155 – 190 GPa) were fully met with this approach. The goal of implementing a possibility for cost reduction using an alternative precursor material has been fully achieved.
Since 1971, the Paul Schlack Man-made Fibers Prize for the promotion of chemical fibre research at universities and research institutes has been awarded at the Dornbirn Man-made Fibers Congress. Former ITA awardees are Prof Dr Gunnar Seide, Dr Wilhelm Steinmann and Dr Stephan Walter.
The Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) belongs to the excellence university RWTH Aachen. Its core expertise consists of textile related production technologies and high performance materials. With the Centre for High Performance Materials ITA offers small and medium sized companies direct access to scientific research especially in the fields of high modulus fibres and composites. ITA provides research and development services and advanced training and creative workshops in cooperation with its partner company ITA Technologietransfer GmbH. Furthermore, ITA graduates students in various textile related courses.