Modern Uses Of Carbon Fibre

In this article, we take a deep dive into modern carbon fibre methods and how the material is used today.

As it is increasingly incorporated into our products and infrastructure, the advantages of carbon fibre become more prominent across industries.

Here, we discuss its uses in sporting goods, military equipment, aerospace, interior design, and much more, before examining why the properties of carbon fibre mean it is on the rise.

Commercial and Industrial Uses

Commercial and industrial uses of carbon fibre are wide ranging. This section examines carbon fibre within a number of sectors.

Sporting Goods

For sporting goods, carbon fibre stands out from alternative materials, such as aluminium, thanks to its reduced weight and heightened strength.

Examples of carbon fibre across sports includes:

  • Golf – carbon fibre can be used to manufacture lightweight golf club shafts.
  • Tennis – lightweight and durable tennis racquets can be made from carbon fibre.
  • Winter sports – skis and snowboards incorporating carbon fibre offer a competitive edge.
  • Hockey – hockey sticks can be manufactured from carbon fibre for easy-to-handle equipment.
  • Fishing – fishing rods can be manufactured from carbon fibre, which is corrosion resistant – suitable for wet and moist environments.
  • Cycling – carbon fibre bicycle frames are adaptable and can enhance performance.  Carbon fibre can also be used for crash helmets with resistance to impact.

Automobile

The low weight of carbon fibre ensures fuel efficiency and heightened performance, while durability secures vehicle safety for automobile and competitive racing applications:

  • Body components – carbon fibre can be incorporated into the wing/fender, engine hood, spoilers, doors, and the roof.
  • Wheels – carbon fibre can improve handling and driving experience.
  • Structural components – components such as the chassis, roof frame, and windshield frames can be made from carbon fibre.
  • Tyres – for improved handling and contact on the road, carbon fibre can be used within tyres.
  • Interior design – automobile interiors can be heightened with carbon fibre wraps and interior components.
Carbon Fibre Bike Handles

Military

The impressive properties of carbon fibre make it suitable for use in a wide range of military equipment also, including:

  • Missiles – carbon fibre used in missiles for fuel efficiency thanks to its low weight.
  • Drones – strength and lightweight for drones in high performance applications.
  • Trucks – carbon fibre has use in structural components, wheels, and interior.
  • Helmets – impact resistance and reduced weight for head protection.
  • Tent posts – the low weight makes tent posts easier to transport and erect.
  • Tactical ladders – lightweight yet robust carbon fibre ladders for tactical operation.

Renewable Energy

A leading use of carbon fibre is in renewable energy, where it is incorporated into wind turbine blades. Specifically, carbon fibre is used within structural elements, adding stiffness to the blade, in replacement of traditional fibreglass materials.

Carbon fibre provides strength without contributing excessive weight to more effectively generate energy.

Energy Storage Systems

The development of carbon fibre within energy storage systems is an emerging field. This relates to the use of carbon fibre for structural composite energy storage devices, which are being explored in batteries, supercapacitors and more as electric technologies evolve.

Carbon fibre’s corrosion resistance, strength and reduced weight make it safe for use in this application.

F35 Carbon Fibre

Carbon Fibre in Flight

Carbon fibre is further widely used by the aerospace industry, whether incorporating sheet or three-dimensional components predominantly into aircraft bodies, wings and engine components.

The innovative material offers a range of advantages for these applications, such as improved strength and fuel efficiency, thanks to its reduced weight; simplified fabrication methods resulting in a reduced number of parts; and corrosion resistance in often demanding environments.

Carbon fibre can also improve aerodynamic performance of aircraft by reducing drag and providing a reduction in weight compared to traditional materials such as steel.

Décor and Interior Design

Perhaps a more surprising use of carbon fibre is for décor in commercial spaces and residential homes. In this application, carbon fibre offers a luxury aesthetic, flexibility (allowing for creativity and limitless design possibilities), and a smooth, fault-free finish for safety and pleasantness of touch.

Carbon fibre furnishings include:

  • Coffee tables
  • Wash basins
  • Chairs and stools
  • Shelving
  • Candle holders and decorative ornaments

Take a look at ThreeOneFour Studio for stunning examples of carbon fibre décor.

Modern carbon fibre chair
Defence

Marine

For the marine industry, in particular, racing yachts and smaller vessels, carbon fibre provides improved performance through a reduction in weight; it can further withstand corrosive salt water, ensuring its durability.

Examples within the marine industry include:

  • Masts
  • Booms
  • Bowsprits
  • Boat hulls

Civil Engineering

Another emerging use of carbon fibre is in construction and civil engineering, where it can be used in place of traditional metal, such as steel. Carbon fibre can reinforce structures, providing tensile strength and corrosion resistance, while enabling thinner layers of concrete.

Close up of Stronger carbon fibre

Carbon Fibre Science

So, what makes carbon fibre suitable for such a wide range of applications?

In this section, we explore the science behind carbon fibre, starting with its range of advantages…

Carbon Fibre Benefits

There are a number of reasons why carbon fibre is becoming increasingly popular.

Not only is it low weight with high strength, as already discussed, but corrosion resistant and chemically inert. This means carbon fibre is chemically stable and is not affected by its environment, such as temperature and humidity, making it suitable for use in harsh environments and conditions. Depending on the direction of the fibres, it can also boast a low coefficient thermal expansion (CTE), making it stable in extreme temperatures.

It is also thermally and electrically conductive, making it suitable for heat and electrical transfer.

Additionally, carbon fibre offers transparency on x-ray machines, making it versatile in medical and security applications. 

How Strong is Carbon Fibre?

To put this into perspective, carbon fibre is about five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff.

Carbon lattice

What is Carbon Fibre Made Of?

As a composite material, carbon fibre is made from carbon fibres which consist of organic polymers and additional materials as required for the application. These fibres are drawn into stands, woven, and set in a resin.

What Is a Composite Material?

Carbon fibre is a composite material – this means it is comprised of two materials with differing physical and chemical properties.

What is the Classification of Composite Materials?

Composite materials are typically classified as:

  • Particle reinforced
  • Fibre reinforced
  • Structural reinforced

Carbon fibre is classified as a fibre reinforced material, since fibres reinforce the resin matrix for additional strength.

What are the Mechanical Properties of Carbon Fibre?

Carbon fibre is known for its high strength.

Despite its fibres having a diameter of ~ 5 μm (0.005 millimetres), carbon fibre has a high strength of around 3-7 GPa.

Modern Carbon Fibre Advancements

What does the future hold for carbon fibre?

We’re currently seeing advancements in recycled carbon fibre, as well as carbon fibres use in 3D printing.

Recycled Carbon Fibre

Recycled carbon fibre is a developing material which aims to reduce the amount of carbon fibre in landfill by repurposing it.

For more on recycled carbon fibre, see our blog which explores its benefits, uses, and the process of recycling carbon fibre.

How Can Carbon Fibre be Utilised Together with 3D Printing?

Another area of development is carbon fibres used in 3D printing processes. Using a filament 3D printer, fibre can be incorporated into three dimensional parts to enhance strength, stiffness and dimensional stability of the plastic part.

Chopped carbon fibre 3D printing materials can be used like normal 3D printing plastics, boosting material properties.

In this application, carbon fibre is not woven, therefore does not have a comparable strength to its woven counterpart. Its appearance is also more like a plastic.

What is the Advantage of Carbon Fibre Compared to Other 3D Printed Materials?

Compared to traditional polymer-based 3D printed materials, chopped carbon fibre-reinforced 3D printed materials offer:

  • More complex designs can be achieved from CAD
  • Reduces likelihood of creep
  • Prototyping capabilities
  • Reduced part weight
  • Speed of process
  • Strength of part
  • Heat-resistance

Conclusion

Carbon fibre uses today are extensive, and with the continued development of the material, including making it more sustainable, we can expect carbon fibre to be a prominent material for many years to come.

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