The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has a 40-year history in research, development, demonstration, and deployment of fiber-reinforced composite materials. For the past decade, ORNL has led the conception, planning, and execution of DOE's low-cost carbon fiber initiative, an area of strategic interest to the U.S. economy that can significantly contribute to the nation's goals of energy independence. ORNL is also developing new carbon fibers for high-performance applications. More than $20 million has been invested by DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program in this research, and private industry and other government agencies have made significant investments as well. ORNL recently received a $35 million award from DOE to design, construct, and operate the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, which will include a pilot plant capable of producing up to 25 tons per year of new carbon fiber materials from several different precursors.
The market for carbon fiber is estimated to grow significantly over the next several years, especially in key markets such as automotive, wind energy, oil and gas, infrastructure, and industrial applications. Success in producing new, lower cost fibers will enable this market to grow exponentially in the years ahead.
The Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium will give private industry, government agencies, and educational institutions the opportunity to work together to accelerate the development, demonstration, and commercial adoption of new carbon fiber and composite materials and processing techniques into many different industry applications, including automotive parts, aerospace, wind and alternative energy, oil and off-shore drilling, construction and infrastructure, and other industrial applications.