July 15, 2020 4 min read

Did you know that carbon fiber was originally invented back in 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio? It took another 5 years of research and development to transform it into a material that can be used on a large scale and has amazing strength properties. 

But still, a lot of people are wondering: what is carbon fiber? And what is carbon fiber made of? If you too are looking for an answer to these questions then please continue reading. You'll find out everything you need to know about carbon fiber and its benefits.

What Is Carbon Fiber?

Carbon fiber is a lightweight and very strong material. It's a polymer made of thin carbon strands that are twisted to increase resistance to breaking. This type of material is tougher than steel but at the same time, it's very lightweight and easy to work with. 

That's why manufacturers and engineers love to work with carbon fiber and use it for a wide variety of applications. In some cases, this material is also known as graphite fiber.

How Is Carbon Fiber Manufactured?

Without getting into too many technical details, you might be happy to know that carbon fiber is made using organic polymers such as polyacrylonitrile (PAN). Other gases, liquids, or materials might be used during the manufacturing process to give it its final shape.

These organic polymers are stretched into thin strands and exposed to extreme temperatures. This doesn't melt the strands but eliminates the non-carbon atoms, leaving a long chain of pure-carbon molecules.

There are usually 5 steps that need to be followed to make carbon. Here they are:

Spinning - This process twists the polymer strands and prepares them for additional chemical treatment.

Stabilizing - During this process, the strands are chemically treated to stabilize the bonding between carbon atoms.

Carbonizing - This is when the polymer strands are heated at extreme temperatures to form carbon crystals.

Surface treating - The surface of the newly created carbon fiber is treated to improve bonding properties and add strength.

Sizing - Finally, the carbon fiber is placed into large machines to be cut into the desired shape.

As you probably have guessed, these processes are fully automated and they require little human intervention. That's how manufacturing plants are capable of producing a few tens of tons of carbon fiber each year. 

Is Carbon Fiber Indestructible?

This is a question commonly asked by people who are interested in carbon fiber products. The answer is no. Nothing in this world is indestructible, not even carbon fiber.

However, it's very difficult to damage this material. Even if you use pointy objects or different types of machinery, carbon fiber will preserve its original form and shape, remaining unaltered.

Other people are asking if you can melt carbon fiber. The answer is no. This material cannot be melted, even if you expose it to high temperatures using a blowtorch.

It can be recycled endlessly, just like aluminum, and it will remain as durable as before.

What Are the Main Benefits of Carbon Fiber?

Apart from its immense strength and durability, this material has other advantages that make it very useful in different applications.

For example, carbon fiber is extremely lightweight and this makes it ideal for automotive and aerospace industries. As you probably already know, there are bikes made from carbon fiber because this material adds little weight and doesn't drag down the cyclist.

Carbon fiber also has impressive resistance against corrosion. It will not rust or degrade as a result of oxidation.

It will remain in the same condition, regardless of its age or for how long it has been exposed to the elements. In fact, carbon fiber doesn't alter its structure in the presence of oxygen and that's why you can't melt it either.

The list of benefits goes on and on. This material has a low CTE, which stands for coefficient of thermal expansion. In other words, it will not dilate as a result of being exposed to high heat. 

To put things into perspective, today's railway roads are made from metals that expand during hot summer days. To prevent accidents, trains need to travel at a slower speed when the railroads are expanded.

If the railroads were made of carbon fiber, the trains didn't have to slow down in the summertime.

Lastly, carbon fiber also has chemical resistivity. This means that it doesn't react chemically with other types of materials, liquids, or gases. As a result, it can be used in combination with other materials to create finished products or for storage purposes.

What Are a Few Common Applications of Carbon Fiber?

We discussed bikes being made from carbon fiber, but there are other applications for this material. For example, you can also find helmets made from this material because they are lightweight and comfortable to wear.

The automotive industry features a plethora of carbon fiber components, especially the Formula 1 cars. You can find car chassis made from carbon fiber, as well as front bumpers, hoods, mirrors, spoilers, and more. 

The aerospace industry also uses a lot of carbon fiber elements for space rockets and satellites. This material increases the lifespan of aerospace vehicles and protects them against extreme temperatures when they go through the atmosphere at high speeds.

You can even find smartphone cases made from carbon fiber because they are very resistant to wear and tear and are very attractive too. These cases feature the standard carbon fiber pattern, which makes your iPhone or Android phone look more elegant and stylish.

Now You Know What Is Carbon Fiber and Its Benefits

Hopefully, this article answered your original question: what is carbon fiber? Now you know how precious this material can be and why everyone is talking about it.

Carbon fiber is continuously being developed and scientists hope that it will reduce the manufacturing and running costs of automobiles all over the world.

Since we mentioned carbon fiber smartphone cases, make sure that you take a look at our impressive collection. We feature cases for the most popular smartphone models out there, including Apple and Android devices.

Find your favorite and your phone will never get a scratch again, not to mention that it will also look completely unique!

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