Carbon Fiber Cluster Strategy

ORNL has a 40-year history in R&D on fiber-reinforced composite materials, and has been leading DOE’s low-cost carbon fiber initiative for more than a decade. While the global market for carbon fiber is still largely restricted to high end applications such as aerospace, economists predict that if cost of producing carbon fiber can be reduced by 50% the market will quadruple in the next five years. Automotive companies are particularly interested in adopting new stronger and lighter materials as a means of meeting impending new CAFE standards. I&ED Partnerships Staff is leading an effort to capitalize on these unique R&D assets by creating new industry cluster of in the East Tennessee region.

What Is a “Cluster”?

According to the U.S. Cluster Mapping website, a cluster “is a geographic concentration of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that is present in a nation or region. Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete.” View the EDA newsletter here.

Major efforts in the Carbon Fiber Cluster initiative include:

  • Carbon Fiber Technology Facility - ORNL received a $34.7 million award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to design, construct, and operate the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF). The facility was purposefully located off the ORNL campus to facilitate more interaction with private companies. CFTF opened in March 2013, and is capable of producing up to 25 tons per year of new carbon fiber materials from alternate precursors.
  • The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation – IACMI is committed to delivering a public-private partnership to increase domestic production capacity, grow manufacturing and create jobs across the US composite industry. IACMI’s collaboration of industry, research institutions and state partners is committed to accelerating development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for low-cost, energy-efficient manufacturing of advanced polymer composites for vehicles, wind turbines, and compressed gas storage.
  • Workforce Development - ORNL has partnered with Roane State Community College to establish several innovative programs that can help ensure that the region will have an adequately trained workforce to support growing demand as new composite companies locate in the region.
  • Industrial Recruitment - Carbon fiber composites has been identified as one of the key target industries for Innovation Valley, Inc., East Tennessee's regional economic development leader. Innovation Valley hosts visits by major national site selectors, attendsconferences and trade shows, and supports companies as they evaluate the region as a site for a new location or expansion.