The fantastic fiber: Useful facts about carbon fiber production
Whether in aerospace, the automotive industry or medical technology, there is one material that cannot be missed. We are talking about carbon or CFRP. Its triumphal march through industry began more than 40 years ago, when it was used in military research centers and by NASA. And today? We encounter carbon in almost all areas of life, for example as prostheses, on the road in the form of bicycle frames, or even in the BMW i3, the first production car with a passenger cell made of carbon. Let's begin our journey through the impressive development of this material.
Carbon, carbon fibers and CFRP – which is which?
Carbon – this term can denote so many things. First of all, it refers to the chemical element carbon. Carbon can be arranged in a graphite-like manner. In this case, carbon fibers or carbon fibers are obtained. This is done by chemical reactions in which heat plays an important role. You can read more about the production of carbon fibers and how kiln systems from ONEJOON come into play in this process further down in the article.
Now it's one more step to prostheses, bicycle frames or skis: when we speak of "carbon" here, we mean CFRP, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. The name already suggests that this is a composite material. This material is characterized by the fact that carbon fibers are embedded in a plastic matrix. Why is this done? The matrix binds the fibers together and at the same time fills the spaces between them. CFRP can now be used to form a wide variety of components and products – and these have impressive properties.
Lightweight and tensile
Carbon is particularly light and harder than steel. Let's take a closer look at carbon fiber: It has seven times the tensile strength at a quarter of the weight of steel. This is very practical when rapid acceleration and high speeds are required. It is therefore hardly surprising that the beginnings of carbon as a material go back to military aircraft and spacecraft construction. Heavy components made of metal could be replaced by lightweight CFRP elements. Research began in the 1960s, and carbon fiber technology was initially extremely expensive.