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Mesophase pitch-based high performance carbon fiber production using coal extracts from mild direct coal liquefaction

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Mild direct coal liquefaction (autogenous pressure, no catalyst, no H2 gas) of Springfield coal in fluid catalytic cracking decant oil is shown to effectively produce coal extract precursors to spinnable mesophase pitch. This work demonstrates that the coal extract can be thermally treated to obtain mesophase pitch in a facile one-step process, bypassing the production of an intermediate isotropic pitch. Furthermore, the presence of 25 wt.% coal in the initial slurry can increase the yield to mesophase pitch nearly twofold and yield to carbon fiber by approximately 70%. The coal extract-derived mesophase pitch was melt-spun and heat treated to produce carbon fiber with graphitic texture, high modulus (>400 GPa) and tensile strength up to 943 MPa. Overall, this work demonstrates that coal can be effectively utilized to markedly amplify the mesophase pitch and carbon fiber yield from fluid catalytic cracking decant oil by relatively simple processing, while conserving utility as a precursor to high performance carbon fiber and potentially other high value graphitic products.