Literature Review on Carbon Fibers
This paper sums up a literature review on a unique and astounding development in the field of Science, known as carbon fibers. Although, they were discovered during late 1800s for the first time, their true potential was not realized until mid 20th century, and even today, researchers are experimenting over new areas of application for carbon fibers. The paper will further discuss; different areas of application, the composition, structure and characteristics of the carbon fibers used, along with a list of merits and demerits of using carbon fiber in place of a traditional alternative in modern engineering.
Carbon fibers have molded into many areas of modern world. They are used in various fields from sports to modern aeronautics. Some of the prominent applications are discussed below:
1. CARBON FIBER REINFORCED POLYMERS:
Carbon Fiber reinforced polymer is a very strong and light weight polymer which is coated with carbon fibers for extra durability.
Composition: The binding polymer in a CFRP is usually epoxy, but can also be another type of polymer such as polyester, nylon, vinyl ester etc. The composite or the reinforcement contains other types of fibers such as Kevlar, glass fiber or carbon fibers. The most costly and strongest of these additives are the carbon nanotubes, which are often used in products requiring high quality, such as golf clubs, baseball bats, engine parts etc.
Mechanical Properties: Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers have two mechanical properties. They have a high modulus of elasticity; which means they are easily stretchable and can endure high strain without deformation. The second property is the high strength of such composite materials; which makes them able to withstand high pressure.
Chemical Structure: In terms of Chemistry, carbon fiber ribbon is a sheet or pure carbon, while the resin can be a range of different materials. These vary according to the placement and utilization of the developed CRFP.
Unique Characteristic: The features of carbon fibers which make them an excellent composite are as follows:
- High tensile strength (up to 1000 pounds per inch).
- A high Young’s modulus, even higher than steel.
- Low density.
- High chemical and biological inertness.
- Very long lifespan
Comparison of CFRP and Steel: The following table compares use of CFRP to that of steel which is a traditionally used material.
2. AEROSPACE INDUSTRY:
Composition: Most commonly, fiberglass is used in the aerospace industry. In a fiberglass, the binding polymer is any kind of plastic which is reinforced through the use of glass fibers, using a similar approach like that of compositing carbon fibers. Different models of aircraft have different composition of carbon fiber in their structure; commercial airbuses may be up to 50% made of fiber carbon, while military purpose planes, such as, drones and automated spy planes may be completely designed out of carbon fiber.
Mechanical Properties: The properties which make carbon fibers ideal to be used in aircrafts are its high strength to weight ratio; they have light bodies, yet they can lift up a lot of weight. Second is the flexibility of such materials.
Unique Characteristics: Carbon fibers are resistant to both environmental conditions and corrosions. They are lightweight with a high tensile strength and carbon fiber parts have a longer lifespan than metal ones.
Comparison of Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum: Pure aluminum designs are much heavier than carbon fiber ones. A carbon fiber plane has more flexibility. Its wings can be given new features, such as, almost vertical win tips that improve efficiency. Aluminum gets oxidized over time while carbon fibers are corrosion and oxidation free.
3. BICYCLE INDUSTRY:
Composition: A range of different carbon fiber composites are used while manufacturing bikes. They are categorized as 1K, 3K, 12K weave; where there are 1000, 3000 or 12000 strands of carbon per fiber inch, or unidirectional carbon fiber which is the non woven type.
Chemical Structure: The carbon fiber that is used comes in rolls of pre-impregnated fabric, or prepreg, which means, it has already been saturated with resin.
Mechanical Properties: Unlike isotropic materials, carbon fiber composites can be made to satisfy virtually any mechanical property without changing the overall structural shape, they are entirely anisotropic.
Unique Characteristics: Lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel, carbon fiber bicycles offer an unmatched combination of ride compliance, stiffness, strength, efficiency and malleability.
Comparing Carbon Fiber to Metal Bikes: Traditionally, steel or aluminum is used to construct bicycles. However, Carbon fiber bikes last way longer and have a high efficiency rate. It is hard to repair a carbon fiber bicycle, if scratched or damaged, while traditional bikes can be fixed easily. Recycling or scraping a metal frame bike is easy, whereas doing so with a carbon fiber structure is very difficult and costly. Carbon fiber bicycles are very costly as compared to normal ones, but their unique design and finishing gives them an upper hand.
4. Industrial Automation and Robotics:
One of the fields, which have started realizing the benefits of carbon fiber designs, is that of robotics. The ability to reduce weight and increase structural stiffness results in faster response time and reduced motor and actuator loads. This in turn results in improved productivity and longer maintenance cycles.
Composition: Most of the metallic parts of the automated system, such as, robotic arms structure and chassis are replaced with carbon fiber substitutes.
Mechanical Properties: Carbon fiber components have reduced inertia load and are stiffer. They also have increased strength and ability to perform more iterative tasks in lesser time.
Unique Characteristics: Improved productivity and less cost on maintenance. Such robots can be used in the nuclear industry, airplane inspection, and other applications where the environment is extremely harsh to humans. It also increases the payload carrying ability.
Carbon Fiber vs. Traditional Robotics: Carbon fiber based robots have less inertia, means they can work at maximum speed 24 hours a day without any maintenance risk. Robots which are able to lift more are stiffer, but do not weigh much themselves result in greater productivity and profitability. Lastly, carbon fiber prolongs the lifespan of robots, resulting in less processing cost, but has a hefty initial cost.
5. MILITARY APLLICATIONS OF THE CARBON FIBER
Carbon fiber has slipped into many areas of military artifacts, starting from mere protective helmets or bulletproof vests, Kevlar jackets, to lightweight weapons and even military aircrafts, fighter planes, helicopters and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Carbon composites are capturing more share in the military supplies as a new military arsenal is announced almost every day. In order to ease swift movements of soldiers, while keeping in mind the safety measures, manufacturers of defensive material are now focused upon utilizing carbon fiber and its amazing properties.
Composition: The F-22 Raptor has over 350 carbon/epoxy parts. Around 33% of the Joint Strike Fighter Plane will be made of carbon and fiberglass.
Mechanical Properties: Carbon fiber has miraculous properties when it comes to cutting down the weight. Weapons made of carbon fiber are not only lightweight, but can have low thermal conductivity. When it comes to designing planes, high elasticity and use of modern CAD (computer Aided Designing) allows manufacturers to make more aerodynamic shapes, having less drag.
Chemical Structure: Chemical inertness and resistance to flames make it ideal for designing masks and gun barrels. As metal barrels heat up quite quickly, and often become a nuisance in a battle. The hexagonal bond shape of the carbon fiber makes it possible to design Kevlar, a fiber vest that is capable of stopping bullets, but many times lighter than traditional ones.
Unique Characteristics: Military personals always have to carry a range of supplies with them, including different weapons, first aid, supplies etc. Reduction in weight would mean more things can be transported by an individual or a vehicle.
Comparison of Carbon Fiber vs. Traditional Stuff: Carbon fiber weapons are lighter to handle and carry around, whereas their metal counterparts are difficult to manage during swift battles. UAV made of carbon fibers are harder to detect by radars and scanners as they can fly at a better altitude and also because of their radiolucent nature. Although it takes heavy toll on a country’s military budget, carbon fibers will always remain a part of military black-ops, while the traditional metal supplies continue to lose its share in military devices.
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