What Is Carbon Fiber? Uses Of Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is five time stronger than steel. It is light weight and easy to work with. Carbon fiber is made up of thin strands of carbon, thinner than human hair. These strands can be woven into any shape and further strengthened by using plastic r

Carbon fiber is five time stronger than steel. It is light weight and easy to work with. Carbon fiber is made up of thin strands of carbon, thinner than 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 long string of molecules bound by carbon atoms.

The precursor used for the manufacture of carbon fiber can be polyacrylonitirle (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 great intensity and shakes off all the non-carbon atoms. At this stage the fiber is made up of closely packed chains of carbon atoms.

Oxidation

After carbonization the surface is oxidised 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 gases or liquids.

Gases 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 weaves the fibers into yarns of various sizes.
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 used 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 light weight and tensile strength properties of carbon fiber makes it an ideal material to make light weight and strong sports products.

Carbon fiber fabrics are used to strengthen concrete, steel, masonry, timber etc. It can also be applied onto 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 manufacture 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 Crafts

Carbon fiber is used to make parts of air crafts. The fuel used by a plane is considerably reduced when the weight of the aircraft is reduced. The light yet strong carbon fiber helps to reduce the overall weight of the plane.

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