Carbon Fibre : Sweeping technical world off its feet
In 1879, the world experienced a novel level of innovation that peacefully took over the reins of technical textile. It was in this year that Edison took out a patent for the manufacture of carbon filaments suitable for use in electric lamps. However, it was in the early 1960s when successful commercial production was started, as the requirements of the aerospace industry - especially for military aircraft - for better and lightweight materials became of paramount importance.
The use of carbon fiber fabric is now widespread and it is in everything from tennis rackets to bicycle frames. It has become a big part of Formula 1 cars and many supercars as well. Several cruisers use carbon fibre extensively. However, as carbon fibre is not part of daily textile needs of consumers, many are unaware that this fibre has become an undeniable part of everyday lives. The truth is that it is everywhere to be found in the technological world.
Carbon fibre is an exceptionally lightweight strengthening fibre derived from the element carbon. Sometimes known as graphite fibre, when this extremely strong material is combined with a polymer resin, a superior composite product is produced. Also called graphite fibre or carbon graphite, carbon fibre consists of very thin strands of the element carbon. Carbon fibres have high tensile strength and are very strong for their size. In fact, carbon fibre might be the strongest material there is. Speaking in technical terms, each fibre is 5-10 microns in diameter. One micron (um) is 0.000039 inches.
In Textile Terms and Definitions, 3k carbon fiber fabrics has been described as a fibre containing at least 90 percent carbon obtained by the controlled pyrolysis of appropriate fibres. The term graphite fibre is used to describe fibres that have carbon in excess of 99 percent. Large varieties of fibres called precursors are used to produce carbon fibres of different morphologies and different specific characteristics. The most prevalent precursors are polyacrylonitrile (PAN), cellulosic fibres (viscose rayon, cotton), petroleum or coal tar pitch and certain phenolic fibres. Based on modulus, strength, and final heat treatment temperature, carbon fibres are classified into different categories.
As far as carbon fibre cloth is concerned, spools of carbon fibre are taken to a weaving loom, where the fibres are then woven into cut resistant fabric. The two most common types of weaves are plain weave and twill. Plain weave is a balanced checker board pattern, where each strand goes over then under each strand in the opposite direction. Whereas a twill weave looks like a wicker basket. Here, each strand goes over one opposing strand, then under two. Both twill and plain weaves have an equal amount of carbon fibre going each direction, and their strengths will be almost same. The two are aesthetically different.
Carbon fibre is primarily used for producing sporting goods, which account for nearly 11 million lb of that material. Currently, the United States of America consumes nearly 60 percent of the world production of carbon fibres, while the Japanese represent for almost 50 percent of the world capacity for production. The world production capacity of pitch-based carbon cloth is almost totally based in Japan. The key to further carbon fibre market expansion is continued development of high-rate manufacturing methods and considering this, it is predicted that demand of the fibre will increase by 235 percent by 2020.