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Facts About Carbon Fiber - Properties & Uses

A Botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys researching and writing about topics that interest her.

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Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel. It is lightweight and highly malleable. 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.

How is carbon fiber made?

Carbon fibers are made from organic polymers. The organic polymers consist of long strings of molecules bound by carbon atoms.

About 90% of carbon fibers are made from the polyacrylonitrile (PAN) process, 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 raw material used to make carbon fiber is drawn out into long strands and then heated to high temperatures in an anaerobic environment (without oxygen). During this process, the carbon fiber atoms do not burn instead, they vibrate with high intensity shaking off all the non-carbon atoms.

Oxidation

After carbonization, the surface of the carbon fibers is oxidized to increase the bonding properties of the surface; this is done so that the carbon fibers 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

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 very strong carbon fibers. Rolls Royce used this while manufacturing their aircraft engines.

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

Uses of Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber felts used to store thousands of megawatts of energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels.

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 produce 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 mainly on the lightness of the turbine blade.

Carbon fiber reinforced plastic is used in the manufacture of race cars due to its lightweight and strength.

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 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.

References

howstuffworks.com

humantouchofchemistry.com

zoeltek.com

© 2014 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 19, 2014:

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

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 18, 2014:

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.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 06, 2014:

Nell Rose thank you.

Nell Rose from England on April 06, 2014:

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!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 01, 2014:

tobusiness thank you.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 01, 2014:

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.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 26, 2014:

ChristyWrites thank you for your visit.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on February 26, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 23, 2014:

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

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on February 22, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 21, 2014:

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

MartieCoetser thank you for stopping by and reading.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on February 20, 2014:

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

Eiddwen from Wales on February 20, 2014:

Interesting and useful Vellur.

Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day.

Eddy.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 19, 2014:

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

Audrey Howitt from California on February 19, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 19, 2014:

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.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 17, 2014:

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

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on February 17, 2014:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 16, 2014:

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

Dianna Mendez on February 16, 2014:

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!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 16, 2014:

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.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 16, 2014:

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!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 16, 2014:

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

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 16, 2014:

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!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 16, 2014:

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..

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 16, 2014:

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.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 16, 2014:

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.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 16, 2014:

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. ^

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