Carbon Fiber technology as we know it was invited in 1964. Today, carbon material is used in everything from airplanes to cars and prosthetic limbs. Many modern technological advancements would not be possible without composite materials.
So what makes carbon fiber so incredibly strong? We’ll take a quick look at the qualities of this carbon material to see how it achieves incredible heat resistance and other important qualities. You may never look at your bike helmet or tennis racket the same way again.
Why Is Carbon Fiber So Strong?
Carbon fiber is made from crystalline carbon filaments. These are roughly 100 times smaller than a single human hair. In precise numbers, that’s 0.0002-0.0004 inches in diameter.
The most common precursor to carbon fiber uses polyacrylonitrile (PAN), although there are other carbon-based substitutes. In carbon fiber, carbon atoms are tightly held together. This forms a chain-like bond.
The unique crystal alignment allows composite materials to be exceptionally strong. That strength is compounded further when combined with other carbon fibers.
So it’s the bonded structure that makes carbon fiber so resistant to breaking. And this is despite being very lightweight.
Carbon fiber can be woven into permanent shapes. This makes composite materials useful for use in prosthetics, for example. Carbon fiber is also incredibly light.
You may have heard of tensile strength. This quality allows anything built with carbon fiber to withstand high levels of tension before breaking. This quality makes carbon fiber useful for manufacturing planes.
Beyond being incredibly strong, carbon fiber is incredibly resistant to chemical abrasion and heat, which makes it ideal for industrial uses.
Finally, carbon fiber is resistant to heat. Any product made from this material will not easily melt. This makes it a great alternative to steel.
Carbon fiber products can withstand heat up to 1,000 W/mK.
Carbon Fiber vs Metal
As we mentioned above, carbon fiber is frequently used for manufacturing planes. Both carbon fiber and steel have high levels of what is known as “modulus of elasticity.” This is a measurement of the stiffness or resistance of a material to deformation.
Carbon fiber and steel measure up to 200 GPa, the unit used to measure the modulus of elasticity. What that figure does not describe is the fact steel is considerably more heavy than carbon fiber. Once the weight is considered, we can estimate that carbon fiber is actually five times stronger than steel!
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For the reasons listed in this article, it is no surprise that carbon fiber is in great demand by engineers, innovators, and scientists. With decades of use, carbon fiber is reliably used to manufacture lightweight products that require great strength.
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