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Carbon fibres: history, players and forecast to 2020

News International-French

18 Mar 2015

JEC releases its first strategic study focused on carbon fibres. It is accessible to newcomers but still informative for veterans.

Since knowing where you are going requires knowing where you’re coming from, this study starts by reviewing the history of carbon fibre development before going on to describe the established carbon fibre manufacturers, assess supply and demand in the sector from 2013 to 2020, and give a brief overview of new developments.

The book is meant to be accessible to newcomers to the sector, without being too simplistic for veterans who are familiar with the issues related to this extraordinary material that is carbon fibre, as used in to composite materials.

Although there are many challenges facing the carbon fibre industry, all the elements are in place to promote the more widespread use of carbon fibre with a demand mostly driven by CO2 emissions reduction including lightweighting in aerospace, automotive... and the development of alternative sources of energy like wind energy.

The carbon fibre demand is estimated to be of 52.900 tons (metric) in 2014 and could reach 110.500 tons in 2020. The investments required for growth are huge (billions of euros), both for fibre producers and part manufacturers. The carbon fibre market could consolidate even further. Its industry is still young. Agreements between raw-material producers and OEMs should become standard practice in the automotive market.

The cost of carbon and the ability to implement mass production processes are the major limitations for the moment. The mass production problem should be overcome more quickly than the cost. Over the medium term, PAN will probably maintain a large share in the precursor market, as research on new precursors appears to be fizzling out for now. Normally, improvements on existing precursors should be accepted easily, but revolutionary new precursors might be harder to assimilate once they reach industrial maturity. Just consider that throughout the twentieth century, it took about twenty years for each new “man-made” engineering fibre (e.g. polyamide, aramid, carbon) to catch on.

And some of the newer applications, e.g. flywheel energy storage, could start to develop faster in future.

About the author:

Franck Glowacz holds Master’s Degrees in Fundamental Physics, Composite  Materials, and Business Management. As a writer for JEC Composites Magazine since 2007, he has been in a very good position to observe the composites market over the years. Previously, he worked on exothermy issues around the fabrication of thick composites for the space industry, on thermoplastic nanocomposites for automotive applications, on bioabsorbable implants for bone fractures, and on alternatives to the hexavalent chrome treatments applied in aluminium adhesive bonding procedures for aerospace-grade sandwich panels.