Australian researchers have made a breakthrough that will make it easier to produce carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber is a material found everywhere these days; in airplanes (who gobble up most of the carbon fiber produced in the world), bikes, cars, and any other structure where you want rigid strength and light weight. The problem with the material is that the process for creating it is intensive, leading to small yields and high costs. Now, the Australian government’s agency for scientific research, CSIRO, together with Deakin University, have made a breakthrough in the production of carbon fiber that might see prices plummet.
Only a handful of companies in the world have the capacity to create carbon fiber, and the researchers now believe they’ve cracked the secret to the next generation of carbon fiber production, creating a composite both lighter and stronger than previously, and at a lower cost. Their technique involves something called ‘wet spinning’ and uses precursor chemicals to create upwards of five hundred thin strands (thinner than a human hair) at a time. These are wound onto a spool to create a tape and then taken to a nearby oven to be carbonized.
Dr. Anita Hill, director of CSIRO’s Future Industries, was very hopeful about the technology: “This facility means Australia can carry out research across the whole carbon fibre value chain: from molecules, to polymers, to fibre, to finished composite parts. Together with Deakin, we’ve created something that could disrupt the entire carbon fibre manufacturing industry.”
“Our two organisations share a long-standing and distinguished bond, one that our new Strategic Relationship Agreement (SRA) deepens even further,” said Deakin University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander AO, “Together, we’re conducting industry focussed research with a profound and lasting impact, from the communities we serve, through to the world.”
The new machine has been labeled the “Ferrari of wet spinning machines”.