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Basalt Fibre Sailboat

Carbon fibre has established itself as a wonder material in vehicle construction, with its mix of low weight and high strength being prized for many of the world’s most advanced vehicles of land, sea and air. Austrian company Fipofix believes that it’s identified a material better-suited to the high seas, saying that its specially processed volcanic fibre-based composite, more commonly known as basalt fibre, offers a better performance-price ratio than carbon fibre or fibreglass and can be recycled after use. The company is in the process of testing the material in some of the world’s most extreme marine conditions.

Though basalt fibre isn’t a household term like fibreglass or carbon fibre, it’s not a new composite, either. According to a 2006 article published on, basalt fibre was originally patented in the US in 1923. Fipofix’s claimed innovation isn’t so much in the material, then, but in the processing and application of that material. The company began as a 2009 collaboration between Austrian technology group Kapsch and Yacht Construction Consulting. The parties innovated a new way of processing brittle, touchy volcanic fibres into rugged, unidirectional fabric purpose-built for nautical use. They called the processing system “Fiber Positioning Fixation” (or Fipofix), submitted a patent application in 2011, then formed Fipofix GmbH.

“Positioning fibres without damaging them represents the greatest challenge in the manufacturing of composite materials,” Kapsch explained in 2013. “Up to 40 percent of the filaments of a roving are damaged in previous processing methods, such as weaving, stapling and sewing, which results in decreased performance of the product under compressive and tensile loads. Fipofix bonds the positioned fibers to the respective matrix for the final processing of the fabric without using foreign materials for fixation, such as yarns, clamps or other adhesives that additionally weaken the part.”

Fipofix believes the resulting basalt fiber composite is optimally suited for nautical applications, stating that it is hydrophobic, UV- and heat-resistant, fireproof, and acid-proof, while creating a hard surface that can absorb vibration and shock. It’s also a more eco-friendly solution, being sourced from a sustainable, natural material and being 100 percent recyclable, setting it apart from carbon fibre and fibreglass, which offer limited recycling potential. Another claim is that it offers a superior cost-benefit ratio compared to both fibreglass and notoriously high-priced carbon fibre.

All those properties look great on paper, but they’re only valuable insomuch as Fipofix’s UD basalt fibre composite actually performs. With help from Yacht Construction Consulting, Fipofix built the “Proof of Principle” Open 16 sailing yacht to test the material out on the choppy high seas. The 16-ft (5.6-m) vessel’s hull and deck were built from a sandwich construction with an inner and outer layer of Fipofix UD volcanic composite laminated to a balsa wood core. The keel fin was also crafted from Fipofix UD, while the mast and rigging used carbon, stainless steel and other materials. Augmenting the sail power was a small, 5-hp motor powered by a 55 Ah battery hooked up to a flexible solar panel mounted on the cabin roof.


The Open 16 was baptized by fire, its first test being a 133-day voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean from Europe to North America and back, a total of 10,000 nautical miles (18,500 km). While the journey could have been disastrous if Fipofix UD didn’t perform to expectations, it was instead highly successful. Not only did the yacht complete the journey through some harsh, trying storm conditions (it took place between November 2013 and July 2014), but under the captainship of Harald Sedlacek it set three claimed world records in the process. The company says that when the yacht landed in Les Sables d’Olonne, France to complete its voyage, its Fipofix structural elements and components were all in prime working condition, with no significant damage to be found.

Fipofix hopes to supply other nautical and industrial customers with its basalt fibre composite. It says that the material can be adjusted in weight, breadth and length to meet individual customer needs, without high retooling costs. Beyond shipbuilding, Fipofix believes its material could find use in a variety of sporting equipment, including surfboards, waterskis and snowboards.

Source: FipofixKapsch

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Carbon Fibre Crash Test

Carbon fibre is a wonderful material. Offering both high strength and low weight, carbon fibre combines two characteristics seemingly at odds with one another to form a very desirable end product, something which is particularly valuable in an automotive application.
“In contrast to a steel body where bending helps the integrated crumple zones to reduce the amount of crash energy that reaches the vehicle’s occupants, carbon fibre dissipates the energy by cracking and shattering,” the automaker explains in a press release.
This is the first time Volvo and Polestar are experimenting with a carbon fibre reinforced polymer body and researching it in real crash scenarios. With this new testing procedure, Polestar explains, the company wants to prepare its cars for the things that are not planned, such as accidents.


Carbon Fibre Monster X 6×6 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Monster X

The carbon fibre Monster X Concept is an X-Class with three axles and six wheels. The design study is planned for production and features bodywork made entirely out of carbon fibre. The body is far from stock, as it features widebody wheel arches, several rear fins and spoilers, sport bars, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, and a hood scoop. The truck bed has been theoretically sprayed with a “protective structural paint” for duty.

Whereas most 6×6 pickups we’ve seen, such as the G-Class or the Silverado, are intended for off-roading adventures, the carbon fibre Monster X is actually lowered. Carlex sees this pickup getting a job as a safety car on a racetrack, albeit a far cry from the traditional safety car. The front and rear winches are for pulling wrecked racers rather than stuck mud crawlers. It also features carbon ceramic brakes as part of the track spec.



Carbon Fibre. Where it all started.

The First Carbon Fibres

The synthetic carbon industry had its official beginning in 1886 with the creation of the National Carbon Company. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, the company would eventually merge with Union Carbide in 1917 to form Union Carbide & Carbon Corp., which changed its name to Union Carbide Corp. in 1957. The carbon products division of Union Carbide Corp. became the independent UCAR Carbon Company in 1995, and was renamed GrafTech International Holdings in 2002.

Electricity was mostly a lab curiosity until the late 1800s, when carbon arc lamps began lighting the streets of major U.S. cities. The lamps were composed of two carbon rods connected to a current source and separated by a short distance. A blazing hot path of charged particles—the “arc”—formed between the two rods, giving off an intense light. National Carbon got its start by producing carbon electrodes for streetlamps in downtown Cleveland.

In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the first incandescent light bulb, which uses electricity to heat a thin strip of material, called a filament, until it glows. He may also have created the first commercial carbon fibre. To make his early filaments, Edison formed cotton threads or bamboo slivers into the proper size and shape and then baked them at high temperatures. Cotton and bamboo consist mostly of cellulose, a natural linear polymer made of repeating units of glucose. When heated, the filament was “carbonized,” becoming a true carbon copy of the starting material—an all-carbon fibre with the same exact shape. Tungsten wire soon displaced these carbon filaments, but they were still used on U.S. Navy ships as late as 1960 because they withstood ship vibrations better than tungsten.

Near the end of World War II, Union Carbide began investigating a replacement for tungsten wire in vacuum tubes by carbonizing rayon, another cellulose-based polymer (like cotton) that became popular in clothing. The end of the war brought an end to the government’s funding for this project, but carbon fibres were still raising interest in the commercial sector. Barnebey-Cheney Company, in 1957, briefly manufactured carbon fibre mats and tows (rope-like threads without the twists) from rayon and cotton. These were used as high temperature insulation and filters for corrosive compounds. A year later, Union Carbide developed a carbonized rayon cloth and submitted it to the U.S. Air Force as a replacement for fibreglass in rocket nozzle exit cones and re-entry heat shields.

While finding a certain degree of success in their respective niches, all of these early carbon fiber materials had poor mechanical properties, making them unsuitable for structural use. It took a chance discovery to set the age of high performance carbon fibres in motion.

Early Applications of Carbon Fibres

As early as 1959 scientists at Parma had taken a step toward producing high performance carbon fibres. Curry Ford and Charles Mitchell patented a process for making fibres and cloths by heat-treating rayon to high temperatures, up to 3,000 °C. They had produced the strongest commercial carbon fibers to date, which led to the entry of carbon fibres into the “advanced composites” industry in 1963.

Composites are reinforced materials consisting of more than one component. The industry had been dominated by fibreglass and boron fibres, which were extremely popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Boron fibres, which contained a tungsten core, were especially strong and stiff, but they were also expensive and heavy. Carbon fibres were much lighter, so the appearance of relatively affordable carbon composites was a welcome development, and they found widespread use in gaskets and packaging materials.

While the tensile strength of these materials was increasing, all commercial carbon fibres to this point were still of relatively low modulus. The first truly high modulus commercial carbon fibres were invented in 1964, when Bacon and Wesley Schalamon made fibres from rayon using a new “hot-stretching” process. They stretched the carbon yarn at high temperatures (more than 2800° C), orienting the graphite layers to lie nearly parallel with the fibre axis. The key was to stretch the fiber during heat up, rather than after it had already reached high temperature. The process resulted in a ten-fold increase in Young’s modulus—a major step on the way to duplicating the properties of Bacon’s graphite whiskers.

Union Carbide developed a series of high modulus yarns based on the hot-stretching process, beginning in late 1965 with “Thornel 25.” The trade name was derived from Thor, the Norse god for strength, and the Young’s modulus of the fibers—25 million pounds per square inch (psi),  to about 172 GPa. The Thornel line continued with increasingly higher levelswhich is equivalent of modulus for more than ten years.

The U.S. Air Force Materials Laboratory supported much of Union Carbide’s research into rayon-based fibres during this period in an attempt to develop a new generation of stiff, high strength composites for rocket nozzles, missile nose tips and aircraft structures. The fibres were also used in spacecraft heat shields to reinforce phenolic resin—plastics that solidify upon heating and cannot be re-melted. As a missile or rocket returns to the atmosphere, the phenolic resin decomposes slowly while absorbing the heat energy, allowing it to survive the trip through the atmosphere without destroying itself. Carbon fibres kept the phenolic resins intact and they have been an important ingredient in aerospace materials ever since.

Polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based Carbon Fibres

While researchers in the United States were reveling in rayon, scientists overseas were busy creating their own carbon fiber industries based on polyacrylonitrile, or PAN, which had been passed over by U.S. producers after unsuccessful attempts at making high modulus fibres.

A quiet study by Japanese researchers in 1961—largely unknown to Western scientists—demonstrated high strength and high modulus fibres from PAN precursors. Akio Shindo of the Government Industrial Research Institute in Osaka, Japan, made fibres in the lab with a modulus of more than 140 GPa, about three times that of rayon-based fibres at the time. Shindo’s process was quickly taken up by other Japanese researchers, leading to pilot-scale production in 1964. In that same year, just a few months before Bacon and Schalamon debuted their hot-stretching method, William Watt of the Royal Aircraft Establishment in England invented a still higher-modulus fiber from PAN. The British fibres were rapidly put into commercial production.

The secret behind these developments was better precursors. In both Japan and England, researchers had access to pure PAN, with a polymeric backbone that provided an excellent yield after processing. The continuous string of carbon and nitrogen atoms led to highly oriented graphitic-like layers, eliminating the need for hot stretching. Chemical manufacturers in the United States, however, generally inserted other compounds in the polymer backbone that could account for up to 20 percent of the product, making them totally unsuitable for carbonizing.

The Japanese eventually took the lead in manufacturing PAN-based carbon fibres, effectively beating the British at their own game. Japan’s Toray Industries developed a precursor that was far superior to anything seen before, and in 1970 they signed a joint technology agreement with Union Carbide, bringing the United States back to the forefront in carbon fibre manufacturing.

PAN-based fibres eventually supplanted most rayon-based fibres, and they still dominate the world market. In addition to high modulus fibres, British researchers in the mid-1960s also developed a low modulus fibre from PAN that had extremely high tensile strength. This product became widely popular in sporting goods such as golf clubs, tennis rackets, fishing rods and skis; it is also extensively used for military and commercial aircraft.

Carbon Fibres Today

All commercial carbon fibres produced today are based on rayon, PAN or pitch. Rayon-based fibres were the first in commercial production in 1959, and they led the way to the earliest applications, which were primarily military. PAN-based fibres have replaced rayon-based fibres in most applications, because they are superior in several respects, notably in tensile strength. Fibers from PAN fueled the explosive growth of the carbon fibre industry since 1970, and they are now used in a wide array of applications such as aircraft brakes, space structures, military and commercial planes, lithium batteries, sporting goods and structural reinforcement in construction materials. In the late 1970s, Union Carbide formed a separate division as its primary carbon fibre producer; the business has since been sold to Amoco and then to Cytec, which is among a group of major carbon fibre manufacturers that spans the globe.

Pitch-based fibres are unique in their ability to achieve ultrahigh Young’s modulus and thermal conductivity and, therefore, have found an assured place in critical military and space applications. But their high cost has kept production to a minimum; only a few Japanese companies in addition to Cytec are currently making commercial mesophase fibres. A lower modulus, non-graphitized mesophase-pitch-based fibre, which is much lower in cost, is used extensively for aircraft brakes.

The cost of making carbon fibres has been reduced drastically in the last 20 years, and researchers are bringing that cost down every day. As they do, many of the applications once considered impossible will become reality. Carbon fibres are used sparingly in automotive applications, but someday entire body panels may be made from them. All high speed aircraft have carbon fibre composites in their brakes and other critical parts, and in many aircraft they are used as the primary structures and skins for entire planes. Carbon fibres could even be used to develop earthquake-proof buildings and bridges.



The Carbon Fibre Gladiator Suit

The Carbon Fibre Gladiator Suit That Takes a Real Beating


Unified Weapons Master, a start-up company based in Australia wants to bring Gladiators back (minus the killing bit at the end) and has spent the past couple of years creating a revolutionary, new combat sport that blends cutting-edge technology with traditional martial arts to allow real, weapons-based combat. To enable these modern gladiatorial scraps, the company has created the Lorica, a suit of armour made from carbon fibre, polycarbonate materials and elastomeric foam. These materials combine to create a suit that can stand up to a real beating, allowing the wearer to absorb the impact of a weapon and escape unscathed.



Underneath the armour is a range of vibration sensors and accelerometers that detect where the fighter lands a hit on the opponent and measures the severity of the blow. The team also plans to include technology to monitor biometric data including heart-rates, oxygen saturation levels and body temperature, giving useful insights into the health of the combatants. This data will then be fed back from the suit to a special ringside computer that monitors the fighters and keeps score.

By @compositestoday



Volvo Carbon Fibre Panels

Volvo to replace body parts with energized carbon fibre panels

For automobile manufacturers, the electric elephant in the room continues to be bulky and weighty battery packs. This week, Volvo unveiled an innovative potential solution to the problem that it has been working on for the past three and a half years with other European partners; replace steel body panels with carbon fibre composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors.

The conductive material used around the vehicle to charge and store energy can be recharged via the vehicle’s regenerative braking system or via the grid. When the system and motor requires a charge, the energized panels behave like any traditional battery pack and discharge accordingly. According to Volvo, the material charges and stores faster than a typical system.

Using a Volvo S80 as a test platform, the team replaced the vehicle’s trunk lid and plenum cross member over the engine bay with the new material. Volvo claims the composite trunk lid, which is stronger than the outgoing steel component, could not only power the vehicle’s 12 volt system but the weight savings alone could increase an EV’s overall range and performance as a result.

Under the hood, Volvo wanted to show that the plenum replacement bar is not only capable of replacing a 12 volt system but is also 50 percent lighter than the standard steel cross-member and torsionally stronger. The very much revolutionary concept, chock full of cost and engineering challenges, presents an interesting solution that could not only reduce overall weight but increase charge capacity relative to a vehicle’s surface area.


When it comes to weight savings, the battery pack in Tesla’s Model S for example, not only adds significant cost but also brings with it over 1,000 lb (453 kg), making the electric argument a difficult one for many. With Volvo’s concept, that huge chunk of weight would not only be lighter under this scenario, but would be spread out evenly over a vehicle’s body. In theory, vehicle handling and performance characteristics would thus improve as a result of this revised displacement idea.

But the idea of using body panels as battery packs does come with its share of particular concerns. Lamborghini, McLaren and Pagani charge a hyper-premium for their exotics as a result of extensive carbon fibre use, so for this idea to become reality and make it to mass production would require a significant reduction in the cost of carbon fibre.

Then there’s the issue of broken panels or those damaged in an accident. In the event of an accident not only would body panels be extremely costly to replace but they could present unprecedented problems for emergency crews. Electrical surges coming from broken body panels could be potentially harmful were rescue persons unaware of the underlying electrical issues.

On a fossil fuel-powered note, cars using traditional 12 volt batteries, which weigh anywhere from 45 – 61 lb (20-28 kg), this technology could also prove beneficial by relocating that hefty chunk of lead from the nose of the car out across larger surface areas.

According to Volvo, weight savings of 15 percent or more could be achieved by replacing a vehicle’s traditional body and relevant electrical components with these new nano-infused carbon fibre panels. Volvo is also keen to point out the positive sustainability aspect that comes as a result of such weight reduction.

Source: Volvo



Carbon Fibre Fins

Enter The Future Of Lightweight Diving With Carbon Fibre Fins

Carbon fibre fins are not exactly new but until now they’ve mostly been limited to freediving fin styles. But in November 2017 at DEMA Submatix US was showing off one of the first ‘normal’ SCUBA diving fins made from carbon fibre we’ve seen to date.

The idea of using carbon fibre to build dive fins might seem gimmicky at first, but there’s some a great reason that most carbon fibre fins have been developed for freediving. Carbon fiber is legendary for its strength and power return so it was only a matter of time until we saw this futuristic material applied to dive fins for general SCUBA diving.


Not only are these fins incredibly light, they are great at transferring power from your leg kick to the water. Each Submatix fin weighs in at nearly half the weight of typical fins tipping the scales at just over 450 grams each, and a reasonable 24 inches or 60 centimeters long.

Of course carbon fibre isn’t cheap so you’re looking at a price of around $399 per pair for the privilege. While the price may be hefty, when you hold them in your hands you realize how much weight you can shave from your dive bag with a pair of these carbon fibre dive fins, and the reduced weight underwater doesn’t hurt either. (Submatix)



BMW Unveils Exclusive HP4 RACE Motorcycle made with Carbon Fibre

At this year’s Milan Motorcycle Show, BMW Motorrad unveiled an “advanced prototype” of its BMW HP4 RACE, which the company is calling its most exclusive motorcycle ever. Like many BMW vehicles, it features a significant amount of carbon fibre. The 2017 HP4 RACE is the latest version of the HP4 that debuted in 2013 with one of the first semi-active suspension systems on the market.

The HP4 Race will join Ducati’s Superleggera as the only bikes on the market with full featherweight carbon fibre frames. For the HP4 RACE, the use of composites will extend beyond just the frame.

“The HP4 RACE will feature the full carbon fibre main frame and carbon fibre rims,” said Stephan Schaller, President of BMW Motorrad. “We will reveal more about this model next spring.”

According to, the carbon fibre main frame, self-supporting tail section, and wheels, as well as the bodywork, were likely made in-house by BMW at one of its three manufacturing plants in Landshut, Leipzig, and Dingolfing, Germany. The site adds that BMW was one of the first auto manufacturers to make a significant investment into its own carbon fibre manufacturing capabilities, instead of outsourcing the manufacturing components like most other automakers.

The motorcycle will be manufactured by hand in an exclusive limited series and supplied in the second half of 2017.


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