C Journal of Carbon Research, 2019, vol 5, 4, pp. 82
Lignin is a significant by-product of the paper pulping and biofuel industries. Upgrading lignin to a high-value product is essential for the economic viability of biorefineries for bioethanol production and environmentally benign pulping processes. In this work, the feasibility of lignin-derived activated carbons for hydrogen storage was studied using a Design of Experiments methodology, for a time and cost-efficient exploration of the synthesis process. Four factors (carbonisation temperature, activation temperature, carbonisation time, and activation time) were investigated simultaneously. Development of a mathematical model allowed the factors with the greatest impact to be identified using regression analysis for three responses: surface area, average pore size, and hydrogen uptake at 77 K and 1 bar. Maximising the surface area required activation conditions using the highest settings, however, a low carbonisation temperature was also revealed to be integral to prevent detrimental and excessive pore widening. A small pore size, vital for efficient hydrogen uptake, could be achieved by using low carbonisation temperature but also low activation temperatures. An optimum was achieved using the lowest carbonisation conditions (350 °C for 30 min) to retain a smaller pore size, followed by activation under the severest conditions (1000 °C for 60 min) to maximise surface area and hydrogen uptake. These conditions yielded a material with a high surface area of 1400 m2 g−1 and hydrogen uptake of 1.9 wt.% at 77 K and 1 bar.