An isotropic pitch precursor for fabricating carbon fibres was prepared by co-carbonization of ethylene bottom oil (EBO) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Various pre-treatments of EBO and PVC, and a high heating rate of 3 °C/min with no holding time, were evaluated for their effects on the oxidative stabilization process and the mechanical stability of the resulting fibres. Our stabilization process enhanced the volatilization, oxidative reaction and decomposition properties of the precursor pitch, while the addition of PVC both decreased the onset time and accelerated the oxidative reaction. Aliphatic carbon groups played a critical role in stabilization. Microstructural characterization indicated that these were first oxidised to carbon–oxygen single bonds and then converted to carbon–oxygen double bonds. Due to the higher heating rate and lack of a holding step during processing, the resulting thermoplastic fibers did not completely convert to thermoset materials, allowing partially melted, adjacent fibres to fuse. Fiber surfaces were smooth and homogeneous. Of the various methods evaluated herein, carbon fibers derived from pressure-treated EBO and PVC exhibited the highest tensile strength. This work shows that enhancing the naphthenic component of a pitch precursor through the co-carbonization of pre-treated EBO with PVC improves the oxidative properties of the resulting carbon fibers.
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