Here's an idea - let's just suck the excess CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into
Let's quickly tot up the pros and cons of carbon fiber as part of a profitable solution to the world's energy problems:
- Enables superlight cars, which require much smaller (therefore relatively less expensive as well as more efficient) engines to provide equivalent performance to current cars
- Huge safety advantages, due to a) vehicles having less kinetic energy due to lower weight and b) structures can be incredibly strong and or selectively weak to protect passengers and provide crumple zones
- Can significantly reduce the number of parts per vehicle
- Can significantly reduce assembly time per vehicle
- 2-10 times more expensive per part than steel
- Carbon fiber production significantly lower than necessary for application to even a fraction of new vehicles
- Cycle times for parts are typically in hours, rather than minutes as for steel parts
- Design expertise is limited
- Process for making fibers is environmentally unfriendly
- Fabrication techniques have a large amount of fiber waste, compounding the cost disadvantage
Despite the advantages of carbon fiber, the disadvantages seem so overwhelming that many analysts have discounted it as a near term option. For example, the recent MIT report "
"Polymer composites [that is, carbon fiber reinforced composites, ed.] are also expected to replace some steel in the vehicle, but to a smaller degree given high cost inhibitions."
So, the future for carbon fiber is not looking rosy. But... There is some hope on the horizon. The
In the next installment, we'll cover the following topics on the work of improving carbon fiber composites.
- Reducing the cost
- Improving cycle time
- Reducing waste
- Using environmentally friendly processes for feedstock generation, fiber creation, and fabrication
- Other alternatives for strong, lightweight composites, including new biomemetic materials