Synthesis and characterization of lignin-based carbon materials with tunable microstructure†
Lignin-based carbons can be used as a low-cost alternative to graphite and petroleum-based carbons enabling the production of sustainable, functional carbon materials for various applications. The microstructure development of these carbons can be controlled through chemical modification of the lignin precursor and choice of carbonization parameters. In this work, microstructured carbon materials are synthesized from lignin using a combination of chemical modification and carbon fiber processing techniques. Lignin is modified by incorporating different ester groups which results in a precursor highly compatible with melt processing using the fiber extrusion technique and conversion into microstructured carbons by oxidative stabilization and subsequent carbonization. Furthermore, the impact of esterifications on precursor chemistry and carbonizations is investigated. A nuclear magnetic resonance study of modified lignins shows characteristic spectral changes as a result of esterifications. Ultrahigh resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry shows the modification process does not affect the polymeric character of the lignin backbone. Esterifications result in moderate shifts in O : C and H : C ratios. Thermogravimetric analysis of lignins reveals distinct differences in mass loss trends during oxidations and carbonizations.