Source: Composites Today | April 27, 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%.

About half of the cost of producing carbon fiber is in the acrylic fiber, commonly called PAN, used as starting material.  The other half of the cost is in the conversion process from PAN to carbon fiber.  Plasma oxidation technology has been demonstrated by numerous international carbon fiber makers to be much faster and use significantly less energy while making a better fiber.  Combining the benefits of this technology with the low cost of textile fiber has the potential to cut the manufacturing cost in half.  This would make carbon fiber available for more automotive light weighting uses and open up markets for strong and lightweight materials that have been constrained by high manufacturing cost.

4M and RMX became engaged in this project I 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.

Professor 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) and Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) 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 said. He added, “This project led by 4M is very exciting.” Professor Penumadu, who serves as an IACMI Characterization fellow for Materials and Processing directorate, is looking forward to working with RMX and ORNL colleagues who have pioneered the original atmospheric plasma oxidation technology for rapidly processing carbon-rich polymer precursors into carbon fibers.

For more information: