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Carbon Fiber Technology Facility marks another milestone


Oxidized carbon fiber was produced during a hot test of the oven system. January 15, 2013. Credit: ORNL.

January 15, 2013 was a big day for the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. For the first time, technicians conducted a hot test of the oven system with a band of fibers moving through the ov­ens, thus producing a batch of “black” oxidized polyacrylonitrile fiber, or OPF. During this process, polymer fiber ma­terial makes multiple passes through each of four large (each approximately 30 feet long and 10 feet tall) ovens at temperatures between 200oC and 300oC. This turns the polyacrylonitrile fibers from white to black via chemical reactions that render the fibers flame resistant and enable them to withstand subsequent carbonization at much higher temperatures.

This milestone follows a very suc­cessful wrap-up of 2012. In December, the facility’s operations team, working alongside equipment suppliers, com­pleted all testing of individual unit op­erations (e.g., ovens, furnaces, materials conveyance systems) as well as a series of “cold runs” to verify continuous pro­cessing capabilities. And in October, ORNL hosted a meeting of the Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Consortium, which now counts 44 member companies. New col­laborations are in the works, and working groups are gaining traction.

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