Lightweight carbon fibers find new and extensive applications in automotive and aerospace industries
Tuesday, Nov 01, 2016
The increasingly stringent emission norms in the US and Europe like the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that require cars and light-duty trucks to run 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 has made a strong case for the substitution of steel with carbon fibers. Carbon fibers are nearly five-times stronger than steel, three times lighter, twice as stiff and have better yield strength. Studies have shown that carbon fiber composites can reduce the weight of the vehicle by up to 50 percent, making it an exceptional material to enhance fuel efficiency in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Application Assessment of Carbon Fibers is part of the TechVision (Materials & Coatings) Growth Partnership Service program, analyzes low-cost carbon fiber manufacturing demands and a technology roadmap for applications in automotive, aerospace, wind energy, consumer, pressure vessels and infrastructure. It also presents a detailed value chain analysis and regional trends in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
"While the automotive and aerospace markets will remain dominant, the rising interest displayed by industries such as marine and alternate energy could well propel the $2.5 billion market to $3.8 billion by 2020," said TechVision Senior Research Analyst Aniruddha Roy. "Carbon fibers will prove invaluable for structural applications in the wind and solar energy sectors."
However, prohibitive costs are discouraging mass adoption. The high cost of precursors drive up the costs of carbon fibers, as it accounts for more than 50 percent of the production expenses. Besides, the conversion yield is low at around 50 percent, and the first stage of the manufacturing process, oxidation, is time- and energy-intensive.
Stakeholders need to identify alternate precursors that are cost effective. Textile-grade polyacrylonitrile (PAN) as well as hybrid carbon fibers such as glass fibers with carbon fibers, which augment the overall strength of the composite, will be efficient.
"Manufacturers can slash the production times and costs through by deploying production technologies like plasma oxidation that reduces the oxidation time and energy by 65 percent," added Roy. "Low-cost fibers can be a reality in the next 10 to 12 years once the industry is able to adopt methods that facilitate low-cost, large-scale production processes. Additionally, recycling carbon fibers will boost adoption across industries in the medium to long term."
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