From Waste to Wealth: From Kraft Lignin to Free-standing Supercapacitors

Carbon Volume 145, April 2019, Pages 470-480

Philipp Schlee, Omid Hosseinaei, Darren Baker, Alice Landmér, Per Tomani, María José, Mostazo-López, Diego Cazorla-Amorós, Servann Herou, Maria-Magdalena Titirici

Pure eucalyptus Kraft lignin derived carbon fiber mats were produced based on a model workflow. It covers the preparation and characterization of the lignin precursor and the carbon materials and its testing in the final application (supercapacitor). Sequential solvent extraction was employed to produce a eucalyptus Kraft lignin precursor which could be electrospun into lignin fibers without any additives. The fiber formation from low molecular weight lignin is assigned to strong intermolecular interactions via hydrogen bonding and π-π-stacking between individual lignin macromolecules which gives rise to association complexes in the electrospinning solution. By stabilization in air, carbonization in N2 and an activation step in CO2, free-standing microporous carbon fiber mats could be produced. These fiber mats possess mainly basic oxygen functional groups which proved to be beneficial when tested as free-standing electrodes in symmetric supercapacitors. Consequently, the CO2-activated fiber mats showed a high specific gravimetric capacitance of 155 F/g at 0.1 A/g, excellent rate capability with 113 F/g at 250 A/g and good capacitance retention of 94% after 6000 cycles when tested in 6 M KOH electrolyte. Therefore, we conclude that lignin itself is a promising precursor to produce microporous, oxygen functionalized carbon fibers serving as free-standing electrodes in aqueous supercapacitors.