The Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge is a $15 million international competition created to accelerate the development of carbon fibre from Alberta bitumen.
The competition is part of a broader initiative by Alberta Innovates called Bitumen Beyond Combustion. The group hopes to advance the development of non-combustion products and production technologies derived from bitumen found in the Alberta oil sands.
John Zhou, Vice President, Clean Resources, Alberta Innovates says “Bitumen Beyond Combustion and the Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge aim to produce large-volume, high-value, non-combustion products from bitumen.”
Zhou adds the new technology could “shift the oil sands industry toward value creation and significantly enhance sustainability in a low-carbon emission economy.”
The Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge is looking to fund technologies and projects that convert bitumen or asphaltenes into carbon fibre. Asphaltenes are organic molecules found in bitumen that are commonly used in asphalt.
The high strength and stiffness of carbon fibre make composites functionally superior to many conventional materials used in the transportation, infrastructure, construction and consumer product sectors.
Alberta Innovates says it is expecting applications from Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. There will be three phases in the challenge which will conclude in 2024.
Three grand prizes of $3 million will be awarded to the winners who will be required to produce more than 10 kg of carbon fibre per day, with a line of sight to scale production to more than 250 tonnes per day.
The group says the winning production process could result in over 100,000 barrels of Alberta bitumen being used on a daily basis to produce carbon fibre.
As part of the competition, asphaltene, derived from Alberta bitumen, will be provided to competitors through an asphaltene sample bank operated by InnoTech Alberta. InnoTech Alberta is an applied research subsidiary of Alberta Innovates.
The competition opened on Wednesday, Jan. 15 and the deadline for Phase 1 applications is April 7.
Alberta Innovates invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and diversity and is hoping the help move Alberta to a lower-carbon future, promote the responsible use of land and water, and contribute to the improved health and well-being of Albertans.
The Alberta oil sands are home to approximately 170 billion barrels of hydrocarbon resources.