The History of Carbon Fiber
The history of carbon fiber dates back to the late 1800s. Renowned inventor, Thomas Edison, used carbon fibers as filaments for early light bulbs. Although these fibers lacked the tensile strength of today’s carbon fibers, their considerable tolerance to heat made these fibers ideal for conducting electricity.
Edison’s carbon fibers were made out of cellulose-based materials, such as cotton or bamboo, unlike the petroleum-based precursors used today. Carbonization took place by baking bamboo filaments at high temperatures in a controlled atmosphere. This is a method known as “pyrolysis,” which is still used today. The resulting carbonized bamboo filaments were fire-resistant and capable of enduring the intense heat needed for incandescence.
It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that high tensile strength carbon fibers were discovered. Rayon became the first precursors used to create these modern fibers. Ultimately, it was replaced by more effective materials such as polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and pitch.
The benefits of these high-strength fibers were clear. They weighed a fraction of the weight of steel yet contained much greater tensile strength than steel. Another important benefit of carbon fiber was its high modulus, or resistance to stretching. This inelasticity plays an important role in reinforcing rigid structures such as the nose cones in hypersonic aircraft.
The United States Air Force and NASA didn’t wait long to capitalize on carbon fiber technology. Stronger and lighter planes began to emerge as carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) replaced heavy metals. These composites allowed aircraft to become faster and more efficient. Carbon fiber’s high heat tolerance was also pivotal to building spacecraft that could withstand the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry.
It is hard to imagine how many modern innovations would have been possible without this technology. The automotive industry has even used these composites to create faster cars with lighter bodies. Consider the NASCAR and Formula 1 race cars. Each of them has a body constructed from carbon fiber composites. New innovations for carbon fiber also include the latest sporting goods – snow boards, golf clubs, tennis racquets, & ultra-light bicycles – giving athletes an edge over the competition.
New carbon fiber solutions are being developed every day to improve the quality of our lives. With a virtually endless array of applications, it becomes quite clear why carbon fiber is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century, as voted by the National Academy of Engineering.
HJ3 is committed to realizing the potential of carbon fiber technology and utilizing it to provide modern infrastructure solutions for industrial, commercial, and consumer needs. Through its affiliation with the University of Arizona Research Labs, HJ3 has paved the way for the composites infrastructure market by completing commercial-specific testing that validates the technology.
The lab at University of Arizona offers large scale materials and component testing for a wide range of structures. The facility is equipped with: (1) State of the art 200 Kip Capacity MTS Test machine, (2) Data Acquisition System capable of reading up to 72 strain gauges, (3) One of the largest test frames in the United States capable of creating 500 Kips of static and dynamic loads – including vertical and lateral load applications.
As a technology transfer from the University of Arizona, unanimously approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, HJ3 receives full access to the University of Arizona’s composite lab, allowing HJ3 to perform application-specific testing for clients, and shape its development efforts for new products.
Continuing research and development for structural reinforcement is what HJ3 does best. Through state-of-the-art technology and solid engineering, HJ3 will unlock even more of the cost-saving solutions our company is known for.
HJ3 Composite Technologies is the market leader for composites in infrastructure due to its unmatched combination of high strength composite materials, turnkey engineering support, and leading research and testing in the application of composite materials.
HJ3 offers the most comprehensive line of high strength composite materials for reinforcing and protecting structures against earthquakes, blasts, and environmental damage. Through its line of composite wraps & laminates, HJ3 integrates the advancements made by the aerospace industry in material science with product solutions for the construction industry. HJ3’s materials achieve the highest strength-per-ply when compared to competitors’ materials and are supported by the most extensive application and durability testing in the industry (Patent #5,640,825).