ORNL has a 40-year history in R&D on fiber-reinforced composite materials, and has been leading DOE’s low-cost carbon fiber initiative for more than a decade. While the global market for carbon fiber is still largely restricted to high end applications such as aerospace, economists predict that if cost of producing carbon fiber can be reduced by 50% the market will quadruple in the next five years. Automotive companies are particularly interested in adopting new stronger and lighter materials as a means of meeting impending new CAFE standards. I&ED Partnerships Staff is leading an effort to capitalize on these unique R&D assets by creating new industry cluster of in the East Tennessee region.
What Is a “Cluster”?
According to the U.S. Cluster Mapping website, a cluster “is a geographic concentration of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that is present in a nation or region. Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete.” http://www.eda.gov/news/newsletters/2013/june.htm
Major efforts in the Carbon Fiber Cluster initiative include:
Carbon Fiber Technology Facility - ORNL received a $34.7 million award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to design, construct, and operate the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF). The facility was purposefully located off the ORNL campus to facilitate more interaction with private companies. CFTF opened in March 2013, and is capable of producing up to 25 tons per year of new carbon fiber materials from alternate precursors.
Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium - The mission of the Consortium is to encourage government and industry collaboration that will accelerate the development of new lower cost carbon fiber materials and create a new generation of strong light-weight materials to address America’s economic competitiveness. ORNL created the Consortium, and is currently one of 52 member institutions from across the globe. www.cfcomposites.org
Workforce Development - ORNL has partnered with Roane State Community College to establish several innovative programs that can help ensure that the region will have an adequately trained workforce to support growing demand as new composite companies locate in the region.
Industrial Recruitment - Carbon fiber composites has been identified as one of the key target industries for Innovation Valley, Inc., East Tennessee's regional economic development leader. Innovation Valley hosts visits by major national site selectors, attends conferences and trade shows, and supports companies as they evaluate the region as a site for a new location or expansion. http://www.innovationvalleyinc.org/