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NETL Experts Discuss Coal-Derived Carbon Fiber Research at National Stakeholders Meeting in Detroit

Development and commercialization of coal-derived carbon fiber composites to meet the needs of industries, improve the nation’s energy and environmental security and create new U.S. manufacturing jobs is the focus of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) stakeholders’ event underway today in Detroit and NETL experts are a key part of the discussions.

Carbon fiber is a material composed of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon that can be thinner than a strand of human hair yet is five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. Carbon fiber can be laid over a mold and coated in resin or plastic. It is a popular material in aerospace, automotive, military and recreational applications. In addition to its strength, carbon fiber is high in stiffness and tensile strength, has a low weight to strength ratio, has high chemical resistance, is temperature tolerant to excessive heat and has low thermal expansion.

NETL researchers are playing a key role in finding the best ways to use coal in the carbon fiber making process in place of petrochemicals or biomass feedstocks. They are sharing their expertise at the event titled “Realizing Mass Markets for Coal-Derived Carbon Fiber Composites Workshop.”

NETL’s John Rockey will deliver an introductory talk as part of the IACMI event. He explained that NETL research includes testing of laboratory- and pilot-scale technologies to produce upgraded coal feedstocks and additional revenue-producing products.

“The Unites States’ coal value chain can be extended by manufacturing carbon products directly from coal instead of using petrochemical or biomass feedstocks or by expanding markets for existing coal products,” he said. “We are working on new approaches so that coal can be used to manufacture high-value carbon products including carbon fiber.”

Key stakeholders from multiple industries, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), all levels of the supply chain, investment and economic development communities, and state and federal government agencies are participating in the IACMI meeting.

Participants are articulating market and technology needs and opportunities with a goal of developing a national program to develop and commercialize coal-derived carbon fiber composites with an unprecedented cost-performance profile that will meet the needs of high-volume, cost-sensitive industries.

NETL has been actively involved in workshop planning along with IACMI, Michigan State University, which operates an IACMI-affiliated scale-up research facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Mont Vista Capital. The workshop is featuring roadmapping sessions and reports, and an optional tour of the Scale-Up Research Facility at Michigan State University.