Stronger than steel and at a fraction of the weight, carbon fiber is one of the most versatile and widely sought after materials in existence. It is the key component in thousands of products in a variety of different industries and markets. From airplanes to cowboy hats, carbon fiber is everywhere. In this month’s blog, we hit on a few of the ways carbon fiber is used in the world today.
Carbon Fiber in the Automotive Industry
Because of its remarkable durability and strength-to-weight ratio, carbon fiber is a desirable replacement for steel and aluminum automobile parts (especially in high-end sports cars). In fact, many European sports cars have made the switch to full carbon fiber bodies and chassis which make them significantly lighter than their steel counterparts. Many electric car manufacturers are switching to carbon fiber for this same reason. A lighter car will naturally run longer on a single charge due to the lessened stress on the battery. Apart from bodies and chassis, carbon fiber is also remarkably popular for wheels, rims, spoilers, bumpers, and sleek internal components.
Carbon Fiber in the Aerospace Industry
For many of these same reasons, carbon fiber is without a doubt a preferred material for aerospace components including aircraft bodies like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB. Significantly minimizing the weight of the airplane design without sacrificing structural integrity and safety allows for improved aerodynamics and better fuel efficiency. For these types of passenger airliners, it is estimated that every kilogram shaved off of the weight of the plane equates to roughly $1 million over the plane’s lifespan!
Carbon Fiber in Sports
With its signature strength and low weight, carbon fiber has changed the landscape of the sporting goods industry. Carbon fiber has effectively replaced metals, woods, and other heavy and relatively fragile materials in tennis rackets, oars, golf clubs, and fishing rods. Carbon fiber is also used in the production of bicycles, snowboards, skis, compound bows, and even some athletic shoes and protective gear.
Carbon Fiber in the Military
Military ground and air vehicles certainly use carbon fiber for reasons previously mentioned, but that’s not all. The military also uses carbon fiber in personal and protective gear such as helmets and certain weapons. It is also a key component in ballistic missiles and other defense applications.
Carbon Fiber in Fashion
That’s right, in addition to airplanes, racecars, golf clubs, and missiles, carbon fiber is actually quite popular for clothing and accessories. Sleek and durable, carbon fiber is gaining popularity for items like hats, sunglasses, belt buckles, cufflinks, shoes, bowties, and even pants and shirts. We tend to think of carbon fiber as rigid, but remember that carbon fiber can come in a fabric that is soft, smooth to the touch, durable, and water resistant. Do we expect it to replace cotton and denim any time soon? Not likely. But when it comes to fashion trends, you never know!
Yes, there are many carbon fiber applications and industries that have been transformed by the use of carbon fiber. At Zoltek, we are a worldwide leader in carbon fiber production and we aim to provide low-cost, high performance carbon fiber to clients in a range of industries and markets. For more information on Zoltek and our line of products, visit our carbon fiber products page.