Introduction

Carbon fiber is now the most important inorganic fiber of high-performance, which is determined by its material property, production technology, and market application. In 1972, a fishing rod made of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRT) was developed and the succeeding development of CFRT moved on to the structural materials of aerospace vehicles.

The main application of carbon fiber is the reinforcement of resin material. The excellent performance of CFRT has a large potential and is practically used in the following fields.

In this series of articles, we will choose some of the applications involving CFRT and have a brief discussion.

Aircraft

In large advanced aircraft, CFRT is frequently used as the load-bearings. In newly developed new airships, CFRT is also used as a structural material.

The fuselage of modern aircraft is made of metals and composite materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium. In order to save fuel and improve efficiency, reducing the weight of the fuselage has always been one of the core challenges in aircraft design and manufacturing technology. The mature application of CFRT in the fuselage manufacture provides the most effective way to reduce the weight of aircraft fuselage. For example, the bodyweight of the Boeing 767 aircraft (CFRT usage only accounts for 3%) made of metal materials is 60t. When the CFRT usage is increased to 50%, the weight drops to 48t. This alone has greatly improved the energy and environmental benefits of the aircraft.

On August 17, 2016, the UK’s newly developed “Airlander 10” completed its maiden voyage. The airship is a lighter-than-air spacecraft designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, communications, material transportation, and passenger traffic. It uses Vectran fabric produced by Japan Kuraray as the skin, which is filled with pressurized helium. The shape and structure made of CFRT minimize the airship’s own mass. When unattended, the airship can float up to 5 days at a time.

Popular Application of Carbon Fiber Composites
Popular Application of Carbon Fiber Composites3

Rail Body

Lightweight is a key technology to reduce the energy consumption of trains running. The metal rail body is high in not only strength but also weight and energy consumption. Taking the C20FICAS stainless steel subway train as an example. Its energy consumption per kilometer is about 3.6×107 J (10kWh), and it consumes about 540,000 GJ energy when running 150,000 km. If the mass can be reduced by 30%, it can save 27,000×30%= 8,100 GJ.

CFRT is the new focus of high-speed rail bodies. It cuts the weight, improves high-speed performance, saves energy, and prevents pollution.

Application of CFRT the rail body includes interiors and load-bearing members such as car bodies and frames, aerodynamic skirts and fairings, roofs, and cabs.

In 2011, the Korea Railway Research Institute (KRRI) developed the CFRT subway bogie frame with a mass of 635 kg, which is about 30% less than that of the steel frame. The roof of CFRT high-speed train jointly developed by Japan Railway Comprehensive Technology Research Institute (JRTI) and East Japan Railway Company has reduced the weight of each car by 300 to 500 kg. In September 2014, the CFRT frame side beams developed by Kawasaki of Japan reduced their mass by approximately 40% compared to metal beams.

Electric Vehicle Body

Researches from the British Material Systems Laboratory shows that for every 10% reduction in vehicle weight, fuel consumption can be reduced by 6%. Among the existing materials, CFRT is the best in lightweight. In addition, the rapid development of automotive design and composite technology makes the popularity of CFRT application in automobile manufacturing far beyond expectations.

BMW cooperated with SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers and began to produce their own carbon fiber. The manufacturing process of the life module in BMWi3 gives the car an extremely high compressive strength that can withstand faster acceleration. The carbon fiber fabric is impregnated into special resins and then made into rigid body parts. All parts are completed by automatic bonding. The CFRT body parts greatly improve the agility and driving feel.

Popular Application of Carbon Fiber Composites2

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