High-Modulus Low-Cost Carbon Fibers from Polyethylene Enabled by Boron Catalyzed Graphitization

Bryan E. Barton*, Michael J. Behr, Jasson T. Patton, Eric J. Hukkanen, Brian G. Landes, Weijun Wang, Nicholas Horstman, James E. Rix, Denis Keane, Steven Weigand, Mark Spalding, Chris Derstine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Currently, carbon fibers (CFs) from the solution spinning, air oxidation, and carbonization of polyacrylonitrile impose a lower price limit of ≈$10 per lb, limiting the growth in industrial and automotive markets. Polyethylene is a promising precursor to enable a high-volume industrial grade CF as it is low cost, melt spinnable and has high carbon content. However, sulfonated polyethylene (SPE)-derived CFs have thus far fallen short of the 200 GPa tensile modulus threshold for industrial applicability. Here, a graphitization process is presented catalyzed by the addition of boron that produces carbon fiber with >400 GPa tensile modulus at 2400 °C. Wide angle X-ray diffraction collected during carbonization reveals that the presence of boron reduces the onset of graphitization by nearly 400 °C, beginning around 1200 °C. The B-doped SPE-CFs herein attain 200 GPa tensile modulus and 2.4 GPa tensile strength at the practical carbonization temperature of 1800 °C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1701926
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 27 2017


  • boron catalysis
  • carbon fibers
  • graphitization
  • sulfonation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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