Carbon Fiber’s reputation as a material has taken on mystical proportions! Not only does it have a reputation for being the best and the strongest, but it’s also become cool to have something made of carbon fiber!
What is Carbon Fiber?
Carbon Fiber, not surprisingly, is made of carbon crystals aligned in a long axis. These honeycomb shaped crystals organize themselves in long flattened ribbons. This crystal alignment makes the ribbon strong in the long axis. In turn these ribbons align themselves within fibers. The fiber shape is the original shape of the material (its precursor) used to produce the Carbon Fiber. I don’t know of any process where fibers are shaped AFTER carbonizing. These fibers (containing flat ribbons of carbon crystals) in turn are bundled by the manufacturer in thicker fibers and are woven into carbon cloth, made into felt, twisted or bundled without twisting. This is referred to as Roving. Carbon fiber is also offered as chopped strands and powder.
How to Manufacture Carbon Fiber?
There are several methods of making carbon fiber but essentially they consist of first making fibers out of a carbon rich precursor material. The original size and shape of the fiber will remain in the finished carbon fiber, but the interior chemical structure will have been greatly modified through the various heating cycles. The first steps are carbonizing and stretching precursor fibers, either PAN: Polyacrylonitrile, Pitch or Rayon. There are several cycles of heating at varying temperatures excluding oxygen. This process drives off most of other elements (hydrogen and nitrogen mainly) of the starting material leaving carbon behind. It also allows the carbon to gradually crystallize in its characteristic honeycomb way.
Properties of Carbon Fiber
- High Strength to weight ratio
- Corrosion Resistance
- Electrical Conductivity
- Fatigue Resistance
- Good Tensile Strength
- Fire Resistance/Non flammable
- High thermal conductivity
- Low coefficient of thermal expansion
- Biologically inert
- X-ray permeable
- Excellent EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) shielding property
- A luxury asset
- Requires specialized experience and equipment to use
Carbon Fiber Products
The properties of carbon fibers, such as high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion, make them very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, and motorsports, along with other competition sports. However, they are relatively expensive when compared to similar fibers, such as glass fibers or plastic fibers.
What are the uses of Carbon Fiber?
Carbon fiber-reinforced composite materials are used to make parts, racing car bodies, golf club shafts, bicycle frames, fishing rods, automobile springs, sailboat masts, and many other components where light weight and high strength are needed.
Strength of Carbon Fiber
Strength of a material is the force per unit area at failure, divided by its density. Any material that is strong and light has a favorable Strength/Weight ratio. Materials such as Aluminum, titanium, magnesium, Carbon and glass fiber, high strength steel alloys all have good strength to weight ratios. The strength of carbon fiber is amazing, along with its light weight. This makes carbon fiber a material that possesses extraordinary features.