Built like the Dreamliner: 2013 debut of carbon composite cars

Sep 28, 2011

The revolutionary material used to build the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 super-jumbo jet, and the military's stealth jet fighter planes is coming down to Earth in a new generation of energy-saving automobiles expected to hit the roads during the next few years. That ultra-strong carbon fiber composite material — 50% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum — is the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS's weekly newsmagazine.

In the story, C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc S. Reisch describes how carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes, and Audi are turning to carbon fiber composites to reduce the weight and improve the mileage of their next-generation of electric and hybrid vehicles. Carbon fiber composites are plastics containing fine strands of carbon that are spun into fibers and woven into a fabric. Manufacturers lay the fabric into a mold with the shape of the final part, and soak it with epoxy or other resin to produce parts for aircraft and other products.

Despite concerns about the high cost of carbon fiber composites, automakers are embracing this energy-saving material, even though it may increase the cost of small electric or hybrid cars by $5,000 or more, the article notes. It describes major auto manufacturers' plans for marketing vehicles made with composites, and research underway to reduce the cost of the material.

Explore further: Olive oil more stable and healthful than seed oils for frying food

More information: “Getting the Steel Out” pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/89/8939cover.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Nanostitching' could strengthen airplane skins, more

Mar 04, 2009

MIT engineers are using carbon nanotubes only billionths of a meter thick to stitch together aerospace materials in work that could make airplane skins and other products some 10 times stronger at a nominal ...

Researcher studies carbon fibers for nuclear reactor safety

Dec 10, 2007

Carbon fibers that are only one-tenth the size of a human hair, but three times stronger than steel, may hold up to the intense heat and radiation of next generation nuclear power generators, providing a safety mechanism. ...

New forms of dietary fiber to boost health

Dec 08, 2010

High-fiber foods are on the way to becoming tastier and more appealing to consumers thanks to new types of dietary fiber now under development. These consumer friendlier forms of fiber, which could be a boon to health, are ...

Researchers build a tougher, lighter wind turbine blade

Aug 30, 2011

Efforts to build larger wind turbines able to capture more energy from the air are stymied by the weight of blades. A Case Western Reserve University researcher has built a prototype blade that is substantially lighter and ...

Recommended for you

World's fastest manufacture of battery electrodes

15 minutes ago

New world record: Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) increased the manufacturing speed of electrode foils coated batch-wise by a factor of three – to 100 meters per minute. This was ...

Waste, an alternative source of energy to petroleum

15 minutes ago

The group led by Martín Olazar, researcher in the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country's Department of Chemical Engineering, is studying the development of sustainable refineries where it is possible ...

Researchers developing new thermal interface materials

57 minutes ago

In the microelectronics world, the military and private sectors alike need solutions to technologic challenges. Dr. Mustafa Akbulut, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and two students lead a project ...

New insights on carbonic acid in water

15 hours ago

Though it garners few public headlines, carbonic acid, the hydrated form of carbon dioxide, is critical to both the health of the atmosphere and the human body. However, because it exists for only a fraction ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theken101
not rated yet Sep 30, 2011
Steel averages 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter, aluminum 2.7 grams. If carbon fiber is 30% lighter than aluminum, it would be 75% lighter than steel, not 50%.
jerryd
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011

Facts are you can get 45% reduction in body/chassis weight by using medium tech composites at under $2/lb vs 50% reduction at $20/lb for way over hyped CF.

But Detroit, etc uses the price of CF as an excuse to not make composites cars.

For instance I have a composite body/frame for a 2 seat sportswagon that only weighs 235lbs and is much stronger than a 450lb steel version.

Nor is production costs as composite production takes 5% of the cost of a steel production line. I have long experience in composite boat, etc production.

It's not just the 240lbs but the smaller brakes, wheels, battery pack, EV drive will cost. Using reasonable present costs in 10k units/yr one could build my 10 mile range 2 seat EV sportwagon for under $10k in lead batteries and $13k in lithium.