Advancing Carbon Fiber Manufacturing Technology
The Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF), established in 2013, is the Department of Energy’s only designated user facility for carbon fiber innovation. The CFTF, a 42,000 sq. ft. facility, provides a platform for identifying high potential, low-cost raw materials, including textile, lignin, polymer, and hydrocarbon-based precursors. Using the CFTF, ORNL is developing optimal mechanical properties for carbon fiber material, focusing on structural properties and process optimization.
The facility, with its 390 ft. long processing line, is capable of custom unit operation configuration and has a capacity of up to 25 tons per year, allowing industry to validate conversion of its carbon fiber precursors at semi-production scale. The CFTF supports the technology development and commercial deployment of carbon fiber in the United States for use in clean energy applications. Additionally, research focuses on further understanding the kinetics of carbon fiber manufacturing, energy consumption, and environmental impact.
Across its energy science and technology user facilities, ORNL delivers breakthroughs from generation to distribution and storage to end use, accelerating America’s transformation to a clean, efficient, flexible, and secure energy future.
Carbon Fiber Overviews
Carbon Fiber Advantage
Carbon fiber is a strong, stiff, lightweight enabling material for improved performance in many applications for automobiles, wind energy, oil and gas, and infrastructure. New, innovative manufacturing processes for low-cost precursor development and conversion technologies at the CFTF hold the key to reducing carbon fiber cost for energy applications. Similarly, innovative performance-focused materials and processes can potentially drive significant performance improvements for national security applications.
Carbon fiber takes many product forms such as continuous, chopped, oxidized, milled and unsized or untreated fiber. By applying basic science and translational R&D, ORNL is identifying high-potential, low-cost precursors or raw materials including textile, lignin, polymer and hydrocarbon-based precursors. Researchers develop optimal mechanical properties for carbon fiber material, focusing on structure property and process optimization. In addition, the CFTF provides carbon fiber sample quantities to industrial partners for testing for continuous improvement and market evaluation feedback for improvements and market evaluation.
Carbon Fiber Intermediates and Composites
Combining carbon fiber with other materials forms intermediates which are then processed with additional materials to form new composite materials. The CFTF’s R&D efforts enable a broader use for advanced composites by lowering carbon fiber costs through innovations such as use of textile precursors. ORNL is also investigating intermediate and composite production techniques including compounding, pre-peg, braiding, pultrusion, and more.
Thermal Conversion Line
Rated for 25 tons/year of polyacrylonitrile (PAN)–based fiber with ability to convert both meltspun and solutionspun precursors.
Melt-Spun Precursor Fiber Production Line
Rated at 65 tons/ year of polyethylene fiber and designed to also spin lignin and pitch-based precursors.
Speed range of 1–120 in./minute and enables manufacturing of custom composite materials with constant cross sections.
Enhances processability of textile grade fiber with 32% reduction in oxidation time.
Provides packaging for large-tow textile carbon fibers for robust delivery.
Designed to distribute chopped strands of fiber glass or carbon fibers; continuous carbon fiber chopping as small as 6 mm.