According to The Asahi Shimbun, a research team in Japan has developed a carbon-fibre manufacturing method that uses half the energy consumed in the current process and could increase maximum output of the strong but lightweight material tenfold.
The new process was announced on 14th Jan by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which worked with the University of Tokyo, Toray Industries Inc., Teijin Ltd. and others in the development.
The production process of carbon fibre has remained nearly unchanged since 1959, when the current method was conceived by Japanese researchers.
Carbon fibre is now considered indispensable for reducing the weight of aircraft and automobiles.
Typical carbon fibre has about 10 times the tensile strength of iron but with only one-fourth of the weight.
However, the current carbon-fibre manufacturing method requires huge expenses and a large amount of energy to heat acrylic fibres at a high temperature for an extended period.
The new formula dispenses with the prolonged heating process by using specially processed chemical fibres.
Annual maximum output of carbon fibre is estimated at 2,000 tons per production line. The new process could bump up the amount to more than 20,000 tons a year, NEDO said.
Some industry experts expect the global carbon fibre market to grow 15 percent annually by 2020 as demand rises for production of aircraft and automobiles. The new process could further expand the market.
Three Japanese companies, Toray, Teijin and Mitsubishi Rayon Co., produce around 65 percent of the world’s carbon fibre.
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