Carbon Fiber & Composite Materials

microwave processing of carbon fiber

Carbon fiber is becoming an increasingly popular composite material due to its high strength and high elastic modulus and low-density characteristics. Though carbon fiber is stronger and stiffer than steel, it is also lighter making it an ideal manufacturing material for aerospace, athletics, automotive, construction, defense, marine, and wind energy sectors among others.

Carbon Fiber Manufacturing Process

Current methods for manufacturing carbon fiber is normally achieved in five continuous stages: 

  • Polymerization of Polyacrylonitrile (PAN)  
  • Oxidation followed by stabilization of the polymer
  • Carbonization to convert fibers to nearly 100% carbon
  • Surface Treatment to provide better adhesion to the resin
  • Sizing to protect the fibers for further processing 

The carbonization stage involves heating the fibers to about 1000-1500C making the overall process slow and energy-intensive- resulting in high OPEX costs. With the goal of reducing carbon fiber production costs, researchers and companies are utilizing microwave-assisted plasma (MAP) technologies to carbonize and graphitize the PAN precursor. 

RFHIC’s GaN solid-state technology can provide significant benefits and cost savings for manufacturing carbon fiber. 

RFHIC GaN SSPA for composite material manufacturing