Researchers at the University of North Texas have created a new carbon fiber from C-lignin, a linear polymer found in plants, that can replace common petroleum and coal-based products in a variety of products. Stronger and lighter than similar carbon fibers on the market, the new carbon fiber can be used for parts for cars, aircraft, electronics and sports equipment.

Nandika D’Souza, a joint professor in the departments of mechanical and energy engineering and materials science and engineering in UNT, created the new carbon fiber in her laboratory with engineering doctoral student Mangesh Nar. D’Souza and Nar engineer low carbon footprint products using bioresources.

Lignin makes plants firm and stand upright, and C-lignin is often found in seed coats of plants such as cacti and vanilla orchids.

“Unlike carbon fiber made from other ligno-cellulose or lignin sources, C-lignin is ideal for creating naturally-sourced carbon fiber because C-lignin fibers are linear, and can be easily processed into carbon fiber with the same equipment often used to produce fossil-fuel based carbon fibers,” D’Souza said.