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Low-Cost Carbon Fiber

Carbon Fiber Line

As the nation’s leader in low-cost carbon fiber research and development, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) offers a 42,000 sq. ft. innovative technology facility with a highly flexible, highly instrumented carbon fiber line for demonstrating advanced technology scalability and producing market-development volumes of prototypical carbon fibers, and serves as the last step before commercial production scale. The facility, with its 390-foot-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 their alternative carbon fiber precursors at semi-production scale.

The facility houses a thermal (conventional) conversion line and a melt-spinning precursor fiber production line and includes space for a future advanced conversion line.


Thermal (Conventional) Conversion 

The thermal conversion line is rated for 25 tonnes/year of polyacrylonitrile (PAN)–based fiber and can convert both melt-spun and solution-spun precursors. It is baselined for standard modulus PAN but designed with the flexibility to accommodate lignin, polyolefin, and pitch precursors and can be readily upgraded to convert rayon and high modulus PAN precursors. It is designed to process materials in either tow or web forms.


Melt-Spun Precursor Fiber Production 

The melt-spinning line is rated at 65 tonnes/year of polyethylene fiber and designed to also spin lignin and pitch-based precursors in either tow or web form. It is upgradable to melt-spin PAN when the technology is sufficiently developed.


Advanced Technology Conversion 

ORNL is currently developing advanced conversion technology based on microwave and plasma processing technologies. Provisions have been made for the future construction of an advanced technology line, similar in scale to the conventional conversion line, when the technologies are sufficiently mature for semiproduction-scale demonstration.


Working with ORNL

The CFTF is available to industrial collaborators throughout the value chain, with emphasis on the creation and execution of vertically integrated partnerships, but academia, national laboratories, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations may also use the facility. Access is granted through various partnering mechanisms, and both proprietary and nonproprietary work can be conducted. All partnerships are conducted in compliance with statutory restrictions, specifically export control. 


Group Leader, Advanced Fibers Manufacturing
Merlin Theodore