Scientists develop easier, cheaper method of creating carbon fibers that's good for the environment

By Shawn Knight
Aug 20, 2015
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  1. Scientists have developed a new method to create carbon fibers that’s not only more efficient but potentially less expensive than current techniques.

    Carbon fiber is a valuable building material that well-known for its strength, light weight and electrical conductivity – properties that make it a desirable building material in the automotive and aerospace industries. Its primary hindrance, however, is cost.

    A team of scientists led by George Washington University chemistry professor Stuart Licht have managed to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and use an electrochemical process that converts it into carbon nanofibers and oxygen.

    Best yet, the desirable attributes of carbon fibers are enhanced at the nanoscale.

    Licht said the breakthrough is more than just an easier and cheaper way to produce a high-value product – it’s also a method of storing and sequestering carbon dioxide in a useful, stable and compact manner. What’s more, if renewable energy is used to power the process like the solar power system the team recently demonstrated, it results in a net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    As a result, the technology could simultaneously serve as a powerful weapon against climate change. Given an area less than 10 percent of the size of the Sahara Desert, Licht proposes, the method could eliminate enough carbon dioxide to bring global atmospheric levels back to pre-industrial levels after only 10 years.

    Pollution image via tentree

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,136   +480

    Irony, I just read about this earlier today.
  3. h4expo

    h4expo TS Enthusiast Posts: 43

    This is nothing short of amazing. Short article but very large and profound subject matter. They should publish the process for the public. I hope governments and large corporations start to view air pollution as a resource motivating the world over to the idea of a cleaner and more prosperous environment.
  4. RzmmDX

    RzmmDX TS Addict Posts: 294   +58

    Woot! My car is going to produce carbon fibers now!

  5. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,295   +663 we go again.

    A warming earth causes more Co2 to get released into the atmosphere, NOT the other way around. We've known this - definitively - for over 50 years. Yet the junk science of Co2-spawned warming continues to be repeated by the media. When will real science become popular again? If it doesn't we'll never have any hope of solving the majority of mankind's technical problems (which can aggravate all our OTHER problems). We'll definitely never make it to the stars in a world that doesn't understand that when you boil things they release gases.
  6. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Addict Posts: 289   +55

    Skipped science lessons at school, I am thinking.

    The science of greenhouse gasses is easily understood by a child, it's not rocket science.
  7. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,322   +263

    A concern I see is after decades of sequestering CO2 and making it back to pre industrial levels is... what happens when due to demand of Carbon Fiber production continues and eventually the air composition is thrown off and we have excess oxygen in the atmosphere? In an extreme past example the Carboniferous period was as high as 35% atmospheric oxygen. How would that effect weather and animal life?

    That aside I'm all for more carbon fibers. You keep on hearing all these new breakthrough products/structures that would be possible with carbon fiber, but prohbitively expensive. This would change that, and would also change the way we design practically all vehicles as well.
  8. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,370   +2,164

    When it's more profitable than pseudoscience.
  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 933   +240

    To me, it sounds like you think Rush Limbaugh is a scientist rather than an "entertainer."

    I've seen articles that say that high levels of oxygen lead to really large living things like dinosaurs and giant insects.

    The problem that I have seen with groundbreaking discoveries like this is that they rarely make it to market. Taking a laboratory process to a production process is not always that easy.

    I did some research on carbon fiber and composite materials a few years back, and all I can say is that using a core of balsa wood and carbon fiber as the outer layers (given a carbon fiber material with a sufficiently high elastic modulus) you can make panels that are significantly stiffer than steel and weigh only a fraction of a panel of the same size in steel. Literally, autos would be so light that on collision they would bounce off of each other. Because of the weight reduction, the fuel efficiency of the vehicle goes way up, too.

    I am all in favor of heavy use of carbon fiber in all forms of transportation, but unless something comes along to make the production costs significantly cheaper, no automaker will adopt it even though doing so would also make it cheaper due to increases in production.

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