Production of high strength carbon fibers from bio-derived precursors is of topical interest. Recently, we reported on dry-spinning of a partially acetylated softwood kraft lignin to produce carbon fibers with superior properties, but the thermo-oxidative stabilization step required a long time due to a slow heating rate needed to prevent the fibers from being heated too rapidly and sticking to each other. Here we report a rapid strategy of dual UV-thermoxidative stabilization (crosslinking) of dry-spun lignin fibers that significantly reduces the stabilization time. The fibers undergo reaction close to the surface such that they can be subsequently thermally stabilized at a rapid heating rate without fibers fusing together, which reduces the total stabilization time significantly from 40 to 4 h. Consequently, the glass transition temperature of UV irradiated fibers was about 15 °C higher than that of fibers without UV treatment. Stabilized fibers were successfully carbonized at 1000 °C and resulting carbon fibers displayed a tensile strength of 900 ± 100 MPa, which is amongst the highest reported for carbon fibers derived from softwood lignin-based precursors. These results establish that UV irradiation is a rapid step that can effectively shorten the total stabilization time for production of lignin-derived carbon fibers.
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