THE CARBON COMPOSITE REVOLUTION IS MARCHING ON
In the past few weeks we have seen an avalanche of announcements about Carbon composite becoming commercial in automotive applications. Automakers are focused towards using lightweight materials to build the external and internal parts of vehicles in order to reduce the weight of the vehicle, and, in turn, improve fuel efficiency. This is a major factor driving the growth of the automotive composites market. Consumers are more inclined towards purchasing lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles for environmental reasons and still fear of potential increase of fuel prices.
This is influencing automakers towards investing in the R&D of lightweight materials to manufacture the exterior as well as interior parts of the vehicle. This reduces the overall weight of the vehicle, in turn, improving its fuel efficiency. Composites with properties such as high tensile strength, lightweight, good corrosion resistance and surface tension, and are easy to process are ideal materials to manufacture lightweight vehicles with good fuel efficiency. After working on biobased material the industry realized that weight reduction is the key to better efficiency and more environmental footprint. A major handicap for biobased or so called biodegradable plastic that have a higher density thus are too heavy for this type of application.
In addition per capita vehicle ownership has increased, especially in developing Asia-Pacific countries such as India and China. This is further driving the use of carbon composite in the automotive industry for the manufacture of lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles, in turn, driving the automotive composite market to some extent. In 2013, there were 800 vehicles per 1,000 people in the U.S. compared to 600 vehicles per 1,000 people in Japan, 80 cars per 1,000 people in China, and 25 vehicles per 1,000 people in India. With a middle class to reach 475 Million in 2020 in China (McKinsey-The Economist), you can expect a tremendous growth in the demand for automotive. Asia-Pacific is the largest market for automotive composites. Increasing domestic production of vehicle paired with increasing disposable income is driving the automotive composites market in the Asia Pacific region. One of the major factors contributing to the growth of the automotive composites market in North America and Europe are stringent CO2 emission rules in these
Here are a few very recent announcements:
A- Hankuk Carbon selected Solvay’s tougheners for automotive applications. Solvay’s impact modifiers enhance the toughness, heat resistance and processability of a carbon fiber prepreg developed by Hankuk, a composites manufacturer based in South Korea, for automotive fenders and roof components.
The prepreg is intended for use by a major U.S. automotive OEM for a commercial automotive fender and roof application. Solvay’s broad offering of such lightweighting solutions underscores the company’s proactive support of the industry’s growing adoption of carbon composites.
According to the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), fiber-reinforced polymer composites could help reduce the weight of conventional passenger cars by 50 percent and improve fuel efficiency by nearly 35 percent without compromising performance or safety. Fabricated using advanced polymer technologies, composites also eliminate corrosion and improve weather resistance vs. metal. They also require lower maintenance.
Solvay’s Virantage polyethersulfone (PESU) tougheners can increase the impact strength of thermoset composites parts by nearly 40 percent and provide a step-change improvement in heat resistance. Because Virantage PESU micropowders are compatible with a range of epoxy systems, they disperse more quickly vs. conventional impact modifiers, thereby improving processability and consistency in high-volume composite production. Already widely used in prepreg production for commercial and military aircraft applications, Virantage PESU tougheners are attracting increasing interest from automotive engineers as an integral part of their vehicle lightweighting strategy as they seek to meet emerging CO2 emission standards.
B- Mitsubishi Rayon to establish plant in Europe for producing carbon fiber intermediate materials. Mitsubishi Rayon will build a new plant in Germany, for producing SMC (Sheet Molding Compound) intermediate materials in order to reinforce and expand its carbon fiber and composite materials business in Europe. Mitsubishi has developed and turned into products high-performance large-tow carbon fiber — suitable for automobile applications, and quick-cure prepregs — intermediate materials with which elaborate exterior panel parts can be press-molded in a short period of time.
C- Carbon composite wheel for automotive
Unveiled recently by Huntsman Advanced Materials, a hybrid wheel produced by a well-established, tier one supplier to the performance car sector will save up to 20% of weight against its aluminum competitors, says the company. The wheel features an Araldite structural system CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) rim around an aluminum alloy center star. Developed using high-pressure resin transfer molding process in its manufacture, it delivers the necessary thermal and mechanical performance while, thanks to weight reduction, releasing extra power or energy savings.
The exciting trend we see in all of these recent announcements is the creation of a trend where carbon composite is not reserved any longer to aerospace or racing cars or yachts but is entering daily consumers industries. This innovative trend will reduce the cost of carbon composite and will allow additional innovation in the years to come.
Libra6 Management, Corp. invests in Cleantech and alternative technology and is currently leading an investment in California Carbon Industry