Attis Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: ATIS) (the “Company” or “Attis”), a diversified innovation and technology holding company, today announced a partnership with Iowa State University for a funded research program to develop carbon fibers for use in a wide variety of applications derived entirely or predominately from lignin produced at Attis’ planned biorefineries.
Carbon fibers produced from Attis’ unique, melt-flowable lignin—a carbon-rich biomass component—would offer substantial cost and environmental benefits to industries that find current petroleum-based fibers cost prohibitive. The Department of Energy and its National Laboratories have placed a high priority on the development of a bio-based precursor for carbon fiber while simultaneously cutting its final cost, so that it may be a viable material in the mass automotive market to improve fuel efficiency, safety and energy independence.
Attis believes its lignin is the best available option to meet these goals and the expertise at Iowa State University can help bring it to commercialization. “Iowa State University has invested a tremendous amount of time in researching bio-based solutions for carbon fiber applications,” stated Dr. Xianglan Bai, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. “Attis’ lignin is unique and shows great promise in delivering the low-cost, high-performance solution the carbon fiber industry has been demanding.”
Carbon fibers are used in multiple industries including aerospace, wind energy, and automotive primarily due to the materials’ unique combination of high performance and low weight. In 2017, global carbon fiber usage was estimated at 84,200 tons; however, the market universally agrees that the cost of carbon fiber is the major factor prohibiting wider adoption. Currently, polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is the most common precursor used in the manufacturing of carbon fiber and is responsible for an estimated 50% of the total finished cost of the product. Due to the high cost of PAN (roughly $3-5/kg), current commodity applications like automotive are forced to incur costs of more than $10/kg for carbon fiber material, all but limiting its use to high-end luxury vehicles.
“We are very excited about partnering with Dr. Bai along with the team of globally-recognized Iowa State University researchers to develop viable carbon fiber,” stated Jeff Cosman, Chief Executive Officer of Attis Industries. “Carbon fiber is a product where Attis lignin brings value in performance, cost-savings, and an improved sustainable footprint for manufacturers and consumers.”
Attis believes the unique, melt-flowable lignin manufactured through its proprietary biomass process technology can substantially reduce the base precursor cost in producing carbon fiber while meeting the performance characteristics required for automotive applications. Attis estimates that each of its biorefineries could produce enough high-purity lignin to produce about 10,000 tons of carbon fiber and can do so at a fraction of the cost of PAN precursor. The United States has enough non-food biomass to sustainably supply over 7,000 Attis biorefineries and the number will grow as biomass farming practices evolve.
“Attis is confident that it’s on the right path to accelerate impactful advancements in growing the economy while dramatically enhancing the overall sustainability landscape,” added Cosman. “It’s not just about carbon fiber, it’s about using renewable resources in a responsible and efficient way to create sustainable jobs, materials and fuels.”
Attis identified Iowa State University as an ideal candidate to partner with for carbon fiber research and development due to their broad background in bio-based material evaluation for carbon fiber production. The partnership will involve a significant amount of laboratory and pilot testing of Attis’ lignin by Iowa State University to maximize the amount of lignin in a finished carbon fiber formulation while meeting the industry standard for carbon fiber in automotive applications.
Iowa State has evaluated a number of major biorefinery processes for their resultant lignin species, and the ability to introduce these products into the manufacturing of bio-based carbon fiber. Based on preliminary laboratory tests conducted by Iowa State, Attis’s unique, melt-flowable lignin has emerged as an outstanding candidate to meet the rigorous performance characteristics required for carbon fiber applications. With minimal modification to processing, Iowa State has found Attis lignin-based carbon fiber to have high thermal stability, high-carbon content and low-impurities, making it competitive with bio-based standards. Through further development work with the esteemed University, Attis hopes to roll out its lignin-based carbon fiber portfolio in step with the commissioning of its first few commercial biorefineries.
About Attis Industries Inc.
Attis Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: ATIS) is a holding company focused on developing and building businesses that play important roles in the new economy, which include renewable fuels, bio-based plastics, healthcare and communications infrastructure. We strive to encourage our employees to be entrepreneurs focused on innovation and technology. We will remain dynamic, persistent and motivated to our mission of winning. The growth of our company will rely on our integrity and our vision for the future. Attis Industries will continue to fulfill essential needs in healthcare, energy independence and digital communications. Today, each of these sectors provide high growth opportunities that collectively account for more than a third of America’s GDP.