Tue 01, May 2018
4M Carbon Fiber Corp. (4M) announced its involvement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), RMX Technologies, LLC (RMX) and The University of Tennessee on a government-funded project to demonstrate the use of 4M’s atmospheric plasma oxidation with low cost precursor to manufacture low cost industrial grade carbon fiber.
The project objective is to demonstrate that standard modulus carbon fiber can be made from textile grade PAN precursor using significantly less energy and in less than half the processing time, thus cutting the manufacturing cost by about 50%.
Roughly half of the cost of producing carbon fiber is attributed to the cost of the acrylic fiber, commonly called PAN, used as starting material. The other half of the cost comes from the conversion process from PAN to carbon fiber. Plasma oxidation technology has been demonstrated by numerous international carbon fiber makers to be faster and use less energy while making a better fiber.
Dr. Dayakar Penumadu, who holds a Fred N. Peebles Professorship in the College of Engineering, will serve as a lead investigator at the University of Tennessee leveraging significant resources for this project through the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM, Knoxville, TN, US) and Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF, Knoxville, TN, US) laboratories.
“Low-cost carbon fiber composites have the potential to transform structural and functional materials, they provide a materials/structural designer/manufacturer with a material whose stiffness is higher than steel with weight lower than aluminum, and most importantly, one that can withstand harsh environments without problems associated with corrosion,” Penumadu says.
“In conventional systems, it generally takes between 80 and 120 minutes for oxidation,” said ORNL co-inventor Felix Paulauskas. “We found a way to cut the time by a factor of 2.5 to 3 times, so we can process fiber in 25 to 35 minutes.”
“We are commercializing this technology with our industrial partners to manufacture low-cost carbon fiber and create quality jobs,” RMX Technologies president Rodney Grubb said. “Through our partnership with ORNL, we have proven 75-percent energy savings, we make a quality fiber, and the equipment uses less than half the space. One of our carbon fiber production partners told us, ‘Plasma oxidation is not a science project anymore. The technology works.’”
4M and RMX became engaged in this project in order to obtain the advanced analysis capabilities of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Both entities are well known in the carbon fiber industry for the development of new materials, processes and analysis techniques. 4M’s atmospheric plasma oxidation technology was developed by ORNL and RMX Technologies and exclusively licensed to 4M Carbon Fiber Corp for commercialization.
News & Image Source: ORNL