Carbon Fibre: The things you need to know

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Well all know Carbon fibre is awesome, It’s as strong as a silver back gorilla and as light as a helium filled balloon. Its mesmerising texture mimics the well know chessboard or finish flag, It can be used to make just about anything and at times can be a right pain to work with.

All my friends have carbon fibre something or an other, one has a pen, a few have bits on their cars and even my too cool for school uncle Karl has a carbon fibre wine bottle holder. We think its fair to say that carbon fibre is finally getting the recognition it deserves as a super material as it gains popularity.

After all, there is no better way to make cars, jets, boats and bridges stronger and lighter, which is probably the reason the likes of automotive royalty Lamborghini are sinking millions into carbon fibre research for their luxury super cars.

So with the inevitability of carbon fibre becoming the next big talking point at your local sailing club, race tract, gym or pub, we thought it would only be right to let you in on some neat facts about carbon fibre you might not know.

You won’t see carbon fibre everywhere, because it’s costly

There’s one good reason you won’t see more carbon fibre around today and thats because it’s pricey as hell. Mostly, because of the cost of the raw ingredients and expensive labour rates due to highly skilled workers pouring many hours over each carbon part made.

Carbon fibre typically starts life as a precursor, made from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) or rayon or petroleum pitch. On a molecular level, these materials are characterized by lengthy strands of molecules bound by carbon atoms. The exact composition of the raw ingredients varies widely, and are most often carefully guarded as trade secrets.

The raw materials are exposed to various chemicals, reacted with catalysts, spun into textile-like fibres, heat treated to re-arrange their molecular structure, re-treated in a chamber with a specific temperature, pressure and gas composition, and eventually woven into a fabric sheet, which is cut, formed, molded, glued, lacquered and sanded. Sounds like Childs play right.

Is carbon fibre really that strong and light?

Hell yes! It has been reported to be a whopping 10x stronger and 5x lighter than the age old steel. According to industry professionals just some benefits of carbon fibre include its unique and nearly impossible-to-duplicate appearance, excellent strength-to-weight ratio, compatibility with other materials such as wood, plastic, concrete, aluminum and steel.

Carbon fibre makes for some bad ass wheels, too!

Some cars, like the new Ford Shelby GT350 R mustang, offer wheels made entirely of carbon fibre. BUT WHY, I hear you ask? well a set of carbon fibre wheels reduces un-sprung weight, and improves handling & responsiveness, steering feel, turn-in, and acceleration of corse.

Could carbon fibre replace other materials?

To making an entire car from carbon fibre would be extremely expensive and very labour intensive, however more and more car manufacturers are capitalising from the benefits of this super-material in less-expensive ways. Today, cars are rolling out with carbon-fibre fenders or bonnets in order to reduce weight in specific areas.

BMW use a process called wet molding and wet pressing, this allows carbon fibre components to be created at a much lower cost, and easily joined with other materials.