Monday, May 10, 2010

Carbon Fiber Technology Center - Oak Ridge National Laboratory

In order for the full utilization of carbon fiber in automotive applications. (Which is necessary to lower weight.) The cost of raw carbon fiber needs to decrease. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is taking on this challenge using $34.7 million in DOE ARPA funding; they are establishing a Carbon Fiber Technology Center. According to their website:
The center will be capable of producing up to 80 tons per year of low-cost carbon fiber for evaluation and use by industry and government partners. Primary equipment will include a thermal (conventional) carbon fiber conversion line and a melt-spun precursor fiber production line. Space and utility provisions are planned to add an advanced technology conversion line.
The overall goal of this technology center is to lower the cost of carbon fiber 50%. This could be a major breakthrough not only to the automotive industry in gaining better fuel efficiency, but many other applications of carbon fiber where high-strength and lightweight is crucial.

Photo Credit: ORNL

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cutting Kevlar with a Waterjet

Cutting Kevlar or any aramid fiber is no easy task. It's tenacity wears our tools and blades, while cuts are often frayed. Probably the best method for cutting laminated aramid fiber, is using a waterjet (as seen above). Although not cheap, these cuts are CNC controlled, so very accurate, and the cut edges are clean and burr free...

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Strongwell Looking at Green Composite Materials

The demand for environmentally friendly materials is growing and will continue to grow. Strongwell, perhaps the world's largest pultruder, recently announced their Green Initiative. This is a fantastic move in the correct direction. Products made with composite materials are in fact environmentally friendly. Composites are inherently lightweight and non-corrosive, which is why they are used in wind blades, automotive, and aerospace.

The life cycle of composites needs to be closely analysed. For example, although a steel structure can be recycled at the end of life, the life span may be shorter, and thus, the overall environmental impact could be greater over time. This all needs to be measured on a analytical and straight forward level.

This being said, FRP composites must figure out a recycling solution. Yes composites are "recyclable", but no company is doing it on a large practical scale... Yet...

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