Carbon fiber is a very strong and lightweight material in the modern age. We found 7 unbelievable facts about carbon fiber and listed them in this article!
Did you know that carbon fiber technology was invented in the 1870s? Thomas Edison used it for the filament in his lightbulbs, a big difference in the applications we now have today. As carbon fiber technology evolved in the last few decades, so has our ability to build new things.
From space exploration to golf swings, carbon material has granted lighter, stronger, and more durable tools. Most of this is done behind the scenes. There are many carbon fiber technology facts you probably don’t know.
Here are eight carbon fiber facts you may not have known.
1. Carbon Fiber is Not Pure Carbon
The carbon fiber you find on cars, in buildings, or in electronics is a group of various materials. Carbon fiber by itself is very brittle and hard to work with. It’s characteristics quickly change when a resin or polymer gets added for reinforcement.
This isn’t the same as carbon nanotubes, which are exponentially more expensive and stronger than carbon fibers. Carbon nanotubes cannot be mass produced fast enough to become a viable material, but they used to say the same thing about carbon fiber.
Technology continues to surprise us in scale and utility, the carbon fiber industry has plenty of room to grow in both respects.
2. Most Raw Carbon Comes Outsourced
Carbon fiber production, like countless others, comes from Chinese and Japanese manufacturers. Making carbon fiber is much more complicated than producing sheet metal, aluminum, plastics, or any other material. Only half a dozen or so companies have the technology to mass produce it.
3. Carbon Is Stiff and Flexible
You get the best of both worlds when it comes to carbon fiber technology. This material can get made to be very stiff or very flexible. How carbon fiber gets weaved plays a part in its pliability.
High temperatures are applied to increase flexibility. Once it is cooled down, however, the fibers will return to a very strong and stiff state.
4. Carbon Fiber is Everywhere!
When it was first starting to be mass produced to the public, carbon fiber products seemed like a gimmick or reserved only for the rich. Carbon fiber golf clubs and F1 cars seemed like the limit to our imaginations. The truth is, carbon fiber has a ton of capabilities and applications.
Starting with the biggest stage of importance, carbon fiber has allowed astronauts to walk on the moon. It has made aircraft, helicopters, and vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient. This has allowed rescue vehicles to operate faster and go farther to where they’re needed.
Car collectors will attest to the beauty of carbon fiber paneling, spoilers, roofs, and hoods. This has reinforced parts of cars that were notoriously easy to damage, highlighting the shortcomings of fiberglass, sheet metal, and etc. Carbon fiber is now a staple in BMW, Tesla, and other luxury auto manufacturers.
In the healthcare industry, carbon fiber is used to enhance the lives of patients and medical professionals. It offers strong, lightweight, and sterile options for medical equipment. Prosthetics have evolved to a new level of durability and flexibility, thanks to carbon fiber.
Not only that, carbon fiber limbs look pretty freakin’ cool, especially compared to their primitive predecessors.
5. Carbon Fiber Products Will Outlive Us
Okay, there are plenty of materials out there that will outlive us. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that carbon fiber materials can last forever. The cost of time and money to make carbon fiber material suddenly makes more sense.
This isn’t another plastic or rubber derivative, it’s not susceptible to the same wear and tear. All carbon fiber products have a special UV coating that prevents degradation, unlike those other materials. When you buy something made out of carbon fiber materials, the rate of depreciation is notably much slower than its counterparts.
6. Petroleum is a Key Ingredient
A byproduct of crude oil, petroleum is used in a number of different products. It’s essentially a waste product that was developed into other things out of necessity. Carbon fibers are one part petroleum, one part rayon, and the remaining 90% is polyacrylonitrile.
Petroleum and rayon act as polymers that bond the carbon atoms together in strong layers. The long strings of carbon atoms are weaved in various structures, producing desired levels of flexibility and strength. There is the standard plain weave, twill weave, harness satin, and some proprietary patterns.
Each weave pattern has its own strengths and weaknesses for certain applications. Different resins also determine different properties of durability and flexibility.
7. Damaged Carbon Is Recoverable
When you see an F1 car get into a wreak, the first thing you’ll see is the carbon fiber body crumple and rip. The damage looks impossible to recover or repair, but that’s not always true. Depending on the size of the pieces and the location of the damage, they can see new life.
Unfortunately, carbon fiber isn’t a material that is accessible without special tools and materials. At least, not for a complete restoration of its former strength and integrity. You can find DIY repairs using epoxy blends to repair things like bike frames or carbon fiber parts.
More Carbon Fiber Solutions
Carbon fiber is an extremely resilient and multi-faceted material. It changes the way we look at the future of major industries and human progress.
Everything has to be lighter, faster, and stronger to expand beyond current limitations. At SMI Composites, we know how transformative carbon fiber is to both common and uncommon products. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit from this next level in manufacturing, contact us today.
With our experience in multiple manufacturing industries, we can help you reach a new level of execution, presentation, and performance.