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Unveiling the microstructural evolution of carbon fibers derived from polyamide-6

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Abstract

Polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fibers have dominated the industry for decades, but the high cost of polyacrylonitrile has prevented the widespread adoption of carbon fiber in high-volume structural applications. As such, a significant amount of research has been dedicated to finding an alternative, low-cost carbon fiber precursor. In this work, carbon fibers were produced from polyamide-6 using metal salt impregnation and a thermo-oxidative stabilization step. To gain further insight into the carbonization process and microstructural transformation, the morphologies, crystallinities, elemental compositions, and thermal stabilities of the fibers were characterized at various stages of processing. The stabilization step resulted in a significant increase in carbon yield, indicating a dramatic increase in thermal stability. This is due to the crosslinking of polyamide-6 chains, which was confirmed by functional group analysis. The crystallinity of the fibers was also significantly altered during processing, as the produced carbon fibers consisted of pseudo-amorphous carbon with two distinct regions of metal salt impregnation. The findings and microstructural evolution mechanisms provide guidelines for further research into carbon fiber produced from polyamide-6.

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Data availability

All data acquired during this study is available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgements

This study was made possible through support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Program, Award Number DE-EE0008195. The authors would like to thank Hills, Inc. for melt-spinning the PA6 fibers used in this study. The authors acknowledge that access to the SEM, EDS, TEM, and XRD in this research was provided by the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility at the University of Virginia. TGA was performed by Patrick McCormack, a member of Dr. Geoffrey Geise’s group (Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia). Confocal Raman spectroscopy was conducted as part of a user project at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), which is a US Department of Energy, Office of Science User Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Cole Love-Baker: Writing – original draft, data acquisition, data analysis. Timothy M Harrell: Writing – review and editing, data analysis. Alexander Scherschel: Writing – review and editing, data analysis. Zan Gao: Writing – review and editing, data acquisition. Ningning Song: Writing – review and editing, data acquisition. Kenneth R Brown: Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing. Frederic Vautard: Writing – review and editing, data analysis. Ilia Ivanov: Writing – review and editing, data acquisition, data analysis. James Klett: Writing – review and editing, funding acquisition. Xiaodong Li: Writing – review and editing, funding acquisition.

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Correspondence to Xiaodong Li.

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Love-Baker, C.A., Harrell, T.M., Scherschel, A. et al. Unveiling the microstructural evolution of carbon fibers derived from polyamide-6. J Polym Res 30, 72 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10965-023-03455-6

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