Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics (CFRP) have long been used in high-performance race cars. However, the cost, as well as the manufacturing time of components, has made CFRP prohibitive for consumer applications. But that is changing.
Strong and Lightweight
Parts made from Carbon Reinforced Plastics can absorb twelve times more energy than steel improving safety. CFRP is fifty times lighter than steel and thirty times lighter than aluminum, making a car built from it significantly more fuel efficient. Thus green, house gas emissions are lowered. BMW relies on the “passenger cell” for its i8 and i3 cars, bridging the gap from formula one race cars to high-end consumer vehicle use.
50 Miles per Gallon by 2025
Standards set by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency require that by 2025 automobiles must achieve more than 50 miles per gallon.
Fast Cycle Times
Fast cycle times and predictable strength are necessary to make a CFRP suitable for an automotive component. These parts include not only such parts as panels, bumper guards, and dashboards but also parts under hood. And today, a dashboard can be made as fast as a milk jug can be made.
Resin-Filled Chopped Glass Fiber
Since the 1950s, the car industry has used chopped glass fiber filled with resin to strengthen plastic car parts. Currently, using glass fiber and CAD software, it is possible to build glass-filled underbody oil pans meeting the tough standards of an SUV truck. And this with the speed needed to meet economic requirements. But there is a new revolution in fiber-filled resin. This is carbon fiber filled with moldable injection plastics. This is much stronger than glass-filled resin and weighs much less.
Properties of Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastic
- CFRP is conductive. This could be a plus or a minus. For example, the utility industry requires many products to be made with glass fibers, as glass is an insulator. Ladders are made with glass fiber.
- CFRP weighs less than glass fiber.
- And although CFRP weighs less, it is stronger and stiffer than glass fiber composites. When compared to metals, a CFRP part of equal strength to steel will weigh 1/5th of that metal. And an aluminum part will weigh 1.5 times that of a comparable CFRP part with the same strength.
- Cost: CFRP is currently very expensive.
Uses for Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastics
- Automotive: In 2019, GM introduced a strong, carbon-fiber truck bed to its Sierra Denali pickup. Parts under the hood are also made from CFRP.
- Sporting Goods: Because of its light weight and strength, it is used to make golf shafts, skis, snowboards, racquets, fishing rods, hockey sticks, bats, helmets, and bicycles, as well as numerous other uses in sporting goods.
- Wind Turbine Blades: The strength and stiffness of CFRP allow for more slender wind turbine blades that are longer, lighter, and stronger. The resulting blades are more aerodynamically efficient. Thus, blades made from CFRP provide a lower cost of energy.
- Aerospace: The Airbus A350 XWB is 52% CFRP including wing spars and fuselage components, while the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a weight ratio of 50% CFRP. The Airbus A380 has a central wing box made of CFRP, allowing it to have a smoothly contoured wing cross-section. This is continuously flowing cross-section allows for improved aerodynamic efficiency. Spaceship One was even made with CFRP components.
- Medical: CFRP is radiolucent, meaning it is transparent to X-ray and shows as black on x-ray images. It is used in imaging structures to support limbs.
- Military: The military uses CFRP for platforms and structures for rocket and launcher systems. It is used to make components for military transports and military infrastructure such as a field hospital. This material is also used in protective helmets and other personal gear reducing weight without sacrificing strength. Even planes and missiles have CFRP components in their construction.