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Facts about Carbon Fiber - Properties and Uses

Updated on June 17, 2016
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Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel. It is light weight, and highly malleable. Carbon fiber is made up of thin strands of carbon, thinner than the human hair. These strands can be woven into any shape and further strengthened by using plastic resin.

Carbon fiber is used in the manufacture of many products. United States, Japan, and Western Europe produce carbon fiber on a large scale.

How is carbon fiber made?

Materials that are used to make carbon fiber are called precursors. They are organic polymers that are made up of a long string of molecules bound by carbon atoms.

The precursor used for the manufacture of carbon fiber can be polyacrylonitrile (PAN), rayon or petroleum pitch. About 90 % of carbon fiber is made from PAN, and the remaining ten percent is made from rayon or petroleum pitch.

The manufacture of carbon fiber is partly chemical and partly mechanical.

Carbonization

The material used to make carbon fiber is drawn out into long strands and then heated without exposing the material to oxygen. When the material is not exposed to oxygen, it does not burn but vibrates with high intensity and shakes off all the non-carbon atoms. At this stage, the fiber is made up of tightly packed chains of carbon atoms.

Oxidation

After carbonization, the surface is oxidized to increase the bonding properties of the surface so that it can chemically bond well with any coating material. Oxidation involves immersing the fibers in gasses or liquids.

Gasses that are used for oxidation are air, carbon dioxide or ozone. Liquids that are used for oxidation are sodium hypochlorite or nitric acid.

Sizing

The next step after surface treatment is sizing. The carbon fibers are coated to strengthen and protect the fibers from damage. Epoxy resin, polyester, nylon, urethane are some of the materials that are used to coat carbon fiber. The coated fibers are rolled onto huge cylinders called bobbins. These bobbins are loaded onto spinning machines that weave the fibers into yarns of various sizes.

Carbon Fiber Fabric
Carbon Fiber Fabric | Source

Evolution of Carbon Fiber

Thomas Edison used carbon fiber filaments for his experiments with light bulbs in 1879. He created the carbon fibers by heating bamboo. These carbon fibers were resistant to fires thereby making them ideal for his light bulb experiments.

In 1958, Roger Bacon made carbon fibers out of rayon material but the carbon fibers he made with rayon were not very strong.

The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farmborough, Hampshire, UK developed carbon fibers that were very strong. Rolls Royce used this while manufacturing their aircraft engines.

Nowadays carbon fibers are made from PAN (ployacrylonitrile), rayon or petroleum pitch.

Uses of Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber felts are used to store thousands of megawatts of energy that is generated by wind turbines and solar panels. This stored energy can be utilized in the future whenever there is a power shortage.

Carbon fiber is used in the manufacture of sporting goods like golf shafts, rackets, skis, snowboards, hockey sticks, fishing rods and bicycles. The lightweight and tensile strength properties of carbon fiber make it an ideal material to make lightweight and durable sports products.

Carbon fiber fabrics are used to strengthen concrete, steel, masonry, timber, etc. It can also be applied to walls, pipes for strengthening.

Wind turbines made from carbon fiber are lighter, stronger and very efficient. The efficiency of a wind turbine depends largely on the lightness of the turbine blade.

Carbon fiber is used in the manufacture of race cars due to their light weight and strength. BMW has used carbon fiber in the production of the electric car models i3 and i8.

In the field of medicine, carbon fibers are used in the manufacture of x-ray equipment, surgery equipment, prosthesis, and implants.

Carbon Fiber in Air Craft

Carbon fiber is used to make parts of aircraft. The fuel used by an aircraft is considerably less when the weight of the aircraft is reduced. The lightweight yet durable carbon fiber helps to reduce the overall weight of the aircraft.

The Boeing and the Airbus company have used carbon fiber to build their aircraft. Boeing 787 Dreamliner has parts made out of reinforced carbon fiber.

References

howstuffworks.com

humantouchofchemistry.com

zoeltek.com

Carbon Fiber Car Parts

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Used to store energy for later use impresses me the most, wow, now that is something else. You have really done some homework here and given us an important look at a valuable thing in our world today. Thank you. ^

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Vellur. I knew a little about carbon fibre, that it was used to make tennis rackets etc, but now I know a lot more. This was a well researched and interesting hub.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Jackie Lynnley thank you for stopping by and reading. Carbon fiber is being researched extensively to make it cheap and affordable.

      Jodah thank you, carbon fiber is an interesting material and has many uses, some of which are still being discovered.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      An educational hub indeed. Carbon fiber is used in many things we use today. I thought it was interesting to learn that Thomas Edison used carbon fiber with his light bulb experiments. Thank you for sharing..

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      What Is Carbon Fiber? Uses Of Carbon Fiber is a useful and interesting hub. Your hub are informative and most helpful at all times. Voted up!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting information, but then scientific stuff always interests me. I learned a few things here so thanks.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing the useful information, Vellur. Carbon fiber is very important today. It was interesting to learn more about it by reading your hub!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      always exploring thank you for your visit.

      DDE thank you for stopping by.

      billybuc, scientific stuff is very interesting, thank you for your visit.

      AliciaC thank you for stopping by, carbon fiber has become the chosen material to build light weight and strong products. Thank you for your visit.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I found this quite interesting. I love these type of posts that educate and inform on important uses of material and manufacturing processes. Thank you for the education! Voted up because it is well written and excellent content!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      teaches12345 thank you for your support and appreciation, you made my day.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 3 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      there is much to know about carbon fiber, thanks for the useful hub.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent hub here. I learned a lot and never really knew about carbon fiber.

      Up and more and sharing.

      Have a great week,

      Faith Reaper

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      girishpuri thank you for your visit and yes there is so much more to learn about carbon fiber.

      Faith Reaper thank you for your visit. Thanks for the vote and share, much appreciated.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      carbon nano tubing! This is probably the wave of the future! Very cool hub!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      AudreyHowitt thank you for your visit, carbon fiber is cool!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and useful Vellur.

      Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      At last I know what carbon fiber is. Very interesting. Thank you, vellur -:)

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Eiddwen thank you for the votes. Thanks for the share too.

      MartieCoetser thank you for stopping by and reading.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

      Very interesting hub. I learned a lot. I didn't realize that was the type of things you could use carbon fiber for.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      mylindaelliott thank you for your visit and leaving a comment, much appreciated.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Interesting! I have seen it referred to in some bracelets I came across online. Good to know more about the material!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      ChristyWrites thank you for your visit.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A very interesting and informative hub. I wasn't aware that carbon fibre was used in so many of the things we use. Nicely done.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      tobusiness thank you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Fascinating look at Carbon Fiber, like others I knew a bit about it, but not being scientific this was really interesting to read, this will be really useful for researching this subject, nice one!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Nell Rose thank you.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Carbon fiber seems to be immensely tough and useful as well. I like the use for making aircraft parts and storing energy for use later.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      rajan jolly, carbon fiber has become the main focus of future light weight technology, thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

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