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Carbon fiber




Carbon fiber or carbon fibre is also sometimes called graphite fiber. It has the highest compressive strength of all the reinforcing materials (composite materials), and it has a high strength to weight ratio and low coefficient of thermal expansion. The density of carbon fiber is also much lower than the density of steel. [1] Carbon fiber is in the form of several thousand long, thin strands of material that is composed of mostly carbon atoms.[2]

History of Carbon Fiber

In 1958, Dr. Roger Bacon created the first high performance carbon fibers at the Parma Technical Center outside of Cleveland, OH. Bacon's carbon fibers were mainly graphite whiskers that were sheets of graphite rolled into scrolls; they contained graphite sheets that were continuous over the entire length of the graphite filament. After the development of carbon fiber, Bacon had estimated the cost to make high performance carbon fiber at "$10 million per pound." Bacon's development was a remarkable achievement at the time, and scientists and manufacturers were determined to find a cheaper and efficient way of producing the fibers.[3]

On the 14th January 1969, Carr Reinforcements wove the first ever Carbon fibre fabric in the world.[4]

Structure and properties


Carbon fibers are the closest to asbestos in a number of properties.[5] Each carbon filament thread is a bundle of many thousand carbon filaments. A single such filament is a thin tube with a diameter of 5–8 micrometers and consists almost exclusively of carbon.

The atomic structure of carbon fiber is similar to that of graphite, consisting of sheets of carbon atoms (graphene sheets) arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern. The difference lies in the way these sheets interlock. Graphite is a crystalline material in which the sheets are stacked parallel to one another in regular fashion. The chemical bonds between the sheets are relatively weak, giving graphite its soft and brittle characteristics. Depending upon the precursor to make the fiber, carbon fiber may be turbostratic or graphitic, or have a hybrid structure with both graphitic and turbostratic parts present. In turbostratic carbon fiber, the sheets of carbon atoms are haphazardly folded, or crumpled, together. Carbon fibers derived from PAN are turbostratic, whereas carbon fibers derived from mesophase pitch are graphitic after heat treatment at temperatures exceeding 2200 C. Turbostratic carbon fibers tend to have high tensile strength, wheresas heat-treated mesophase-pitch-derived carbon fibers have high Young's modulus and high thermal conductivity.


(For common applications, see Carbon fiber reinforced polymer or CFRP)

Carbon fiber is most notably used to reinforce composite materials, particularly the class of materials known as Carbon fiber or graphite reinforced polymers.

Non-polymer materials can also be used as the matrix for carbon fibres. Due to the formation of metal carbides (i.e., water-soluble AlC) and corrosion considerations, carbon has seen limited success in metal matrix composite applications. Reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) consists of carbon fibre-reinforced graphite, and is used structurally in high-temperature applications. The fibre also finds use in filtration of high-temperature gases, as an electrode with high surface area and impeccable corrosion resistance, and as an anti-static component.


Each carbon filament is made out of long, thin filaments of carbon sometimes transformed to graphite. A common method of making carbon filaments is the oxidation and thermal pyrolysis of polyacrylonitrile (PAN), a polymer based on acrylonitrile used in the creation of synthetic materials. Like all polymers, polyacrylonitrile molecules are long chains, which are aligned in the process of drawing continuous filaments. A common method of manufacture involves heating the PAN to approximately 300 °C in air, which breaks many of the hydrogen bonds, and oxidizes the material. The oxidized PAN is then placed into a furnace, having an inert atmosphere of a gas such as argon, and heated to approximately 2000 °C which induces graphitization of the material, changing the molecular bond structure. When heated in the correct conditions, these chains bond side-to-side (ladder polymers), forming narrow graphene sheets which eventually merge to form a single, jelly roll-shaped or round filament. The result is usually 93-95% carbon. Lower-quality fibre can be manufactured using pitch or rayon as the precursor instead of PAN. The carbon can become further enhanced, as high modulus, or high strength carbon, by heat treatment processes. Carbon heated in the range of 1500-2000 °C (carbonization) exhibits the highest tensile strength (820,000 psi or 5,650 MPa or 5,650 N/mm²), while carbon fibre heated from 2500 to 3000 °C (graphitizing) exhibits a higher modulus of elasticity (77,000,000 psi or 531 GPa or 531 kN/mm²).


There are several categories of carbon fibres: standard modulus (250 GPa) , intermediate modulus (300 GPa), and high modulus (> 300 GPa).[6] The tensile strength of different yarn types varies between 2000 and 7000 MPa. A typical density of carbon fiber is 1750 kg/m3.

Precursors for carbon fibres are PAN, rayon and pitch. Carbon fiber filament yarns are used in several processing techniques: the direct uses are for prepregging, filament winding, pultrusion, weaving, braiding etc. Carbon fiber yarn is rated by the linear density (weight per unit length = 1 g/1000 m = tex) or by number of filaments per yarn count, in thousands. For example 200 tex for 3,000 filaments of carbon fiber is 3 times as strong as 1,000 carbon fibers, but is also 3 times as heavy. This thread can then be used to weave a carbon fiber filament fabric or cloth. The appearance of this fabric generally depends on the linear density of the yarn and the weave chosen. Some commonly used types of weave are twill, satin and plain.

See also

Chemistry and Synthesis of Carbon Fiber

  • The Chemistry of Carbon Fiber
  • Making Carbon Fiber


  1. ^ Mr. Jeremy Hierholzer, Assistant Professor of Aviation Technology, Purdue University, 2007.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Carr Reinforcements - www.carrreinforcements
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Carbon Fiber Data Sheets - Continuous Fiber," Hexcel Corporation, 26 November 2007
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Carbon_fiber". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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