Problem: Because Vapor Grown Carbon Fiber (VGCF) is generated in a different form than conventional carbon fiber, standard composite processing cannot be applied to produce VGCF composites. Thus, new fabrication methods are needed in order to exploit the properties of VGCF in applications such as electronic packaging and molded automotive components. The price of fiber currently inhibits the use of carbon composites outside the defense aerospace industry except for more exotic sports applications. Conventional carbon fibers cost $40.00/lb.
Solution: The Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/ML) has agreed to develop, in collaboration with Applied Sciences, Inc. polymeric or carbon matrix composites incorporating vapor grown carbon fibers. Exhibiting very high stiffness and thermal conductivity without high temperature heat treatment, they are potentially much less costly to produce than conventional continuous fiber. The vapor grown carbon fibers could cost as little as $3.00/lb and are approximately 150 times smaller in diameter than conventional carbon fibers. The use of vapor grown fiber composites is expected to enable production cost reductions for both military and commercial applications.
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