New graphene carbon will be three times cheaper and it will change the auto industryMay 26, 2020
Despite its strength and lightness, carbon fiber remains too expensive to produce material to be used in the mass automotive industry. A new method proposed by American scientists, allows to reduce costs by 3 times and strengthen the fibers with graphene.
For decades, carbon fiber has been used in aircraft manufacturing. Long strands of carbon atoms less than a human hair thick, light and durable, have proven to be ideal materials for making airplanes. Today, it sells for about $ 33 per kilogram — too expensive for a budget car, Phys.org writes.
Meanwhile, the use of carbon fiber in the mass automotive industry can significantly reduce the weight of cars, their cost and increase safety.
The research team, consisting of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the United States, the Belgian company Solvay and the American Oshkosh, wants to reduce the cost of carbon fiber by three times, to $ 11 per kilogram, making changes to the production process. This will allow the material to find a new application, including in the automotive industry. In addition, the research team can reduce the cost of production of other types of carbon fibers, some of which are sold today at a price of up to $ 2 thousand per kilogram.
90% of the carbon fiber is made from polyacrylonitrile, but the process requires a huge amount of energy. First, the filaments should be heated to 200-300 degrees Celsius, then again, but already to 1200-1600 degrees to convert to carbon. And finally, up to 2100 C, so that the molecules take their proper position. Without this, the material will not have the necessary strength and stiffness.
By adding a small amount of graphene – only 0.075% of the mass – at the first stage of the production process, scientists were able to create carbon fiber, which has a strength of 225% and a stiffness of 184% higher than polyacrylonitrile fibers created in the usual way. These results allow us to hope that using additives, it will be possible to remove at least one heating step from the carbon fiber production process, and to make the second heating substantially less energy-intensive. The material will eventually have the same characteristics as with the current production technology.
In order to verify the operability of the new method and to understand the causes of such exposure to graphene, scientists conducted modeling and a number of experiments. It confirmed the initial calculations and explained why polyacrylonitrile with an extremely small addition of graphene behaves this way.
Last year, scientists announced the possibility of significantly reducing the cost of producing diamond threads, a promising material for quantum computers and displays of a new type. The technology does not require special conditions, except for the use of nanosecond laser pulses.
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