Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is getting $34.7 million to find ways to make cars lighter by improving carbon fiber manufacturing and processing. Though used in race cars and high-performance “supercars,” current carbon fiber composites cost too much for mass market vehicles.
Lightweight, strong carbon fiber will raise fuel efficiency, whether that fuel of the future is the natural biogas that you’ll surely one day tap from the compost in your backyard; or biodiesel (made from drought-resistant weeds of course), or the electrons off your shiny new solar roof.
The new Carbon Fiber Technology Center will try new feedstocks and new ways to create them, with the idea of reducing the cost of carbon fiber to under $5 a pound. Currently it is between $10 and $20 per pound.
We must develop a cheap way to make carbon fiber to reduce the weight of vehicles. The Department of Energy even considers the development and improvement of energy efficiency technologies a strategic national interest.
Technologies like cheap carbon fiber will help transform the economy and create jobs, while decreasing carbon emissions. The timing is great. Nanotech holds promise in the field of nano-carbon fiber development making it ever stronger and lighter than steel.
For example a nano-Graphene is already being produced by the ton for researchers to work with. Materials like this would surely be one of the nanotech advances to be tested at Oak Ridge.
And what better to wrap around the great advances in the new battery technologies that will surely come from the historic levels of R&D investment seen from this administration into battery development for electric vehicles.