Carbon fiber is well known for its exceptional properties, such as low thermal expansion, high-temperature tolerance, high chemical resistance, low weight to high strength ratio, high tensile strength, and high stiffness. These properties make them a highly popular material in many applications in civil engineering, sports equipment, military, motorsports, and others. Carbon fiber-based components witness robust demand from aerospace, automotive, wind energy, and other end-use industries.
In aerospace and automotive industries, there is a growing emphasis on utilizing lightweight, durable, flexible, materials, such as carbon fiber, to enhance the performance and efficiency of automobiles and aircraft and aid in achieving the emission standards set by various authorities. Owing to this, the materials are quickly replacing aluminum and steel. The global carbon fiber market size is forecast to witness notable growth over the coming years.
Demand in automotive and aerospace applications
The carbon fiber industry share from automotive applications is predicted to expand significantly in the upcoming years. In vehicles, carbon fibers, due to lightweight, high thermal stability and electrical conductivity, are used in various important components, such as disk brakes, wheels, automobile hoods, and others.
Soaring carbon fiber consumption is expected due to the increasing production of cars to cater to strong consumer demand. According to the International Organization for Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, the global production of commercial vehicles and cars was combinedly around 91.78 million in 2019.
From aerospace applications, the carbon fiber industry share is slated to witness considerable growth by 2027. The superior physical strength, low coefficient of thermal expansion, high dimensional stability, and low abrasion characteristics of carbon fibers complement their applications in aerospace antennas, aircraft brakes, and support structures. Recent research and development in the manufacturing process of carbon fiber composites for aerospace applications are likely to boost its consumption in the sector.
For instance, researchers at the University of Sydney have recently developed an upgraded method for recycling carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites, that retain 90% of their original strength and allow their re-utilization in modern commercial airframes.
Flourishing clean energy projects in North America
North America is slated to register a considerable share of the global carbon fiber industry by 2027. The booming wind energy sector in the region is generating strong demand for carbon fiber composites for their use in wind blades. The exceptional fatigue and corrosion resistance property of carbon composites enhance the longevity of wind blades.
Wind energy is one of the major sources of electricity generation in the United States. For instance, approximately 337.5 terawatt-hours of electricity were produced by wind power between January and December 2020, which is equal to nearly 8.42% of all generated electricity in the U.S. Growing adoption of clean energy technologies to reduce emission should positively impact carbon fiber market share across various sectors in the region.
Leading manufacturers of carbon fiber composites are Zoltek, Formosa Plastics Corp, Hexcel Corporation, Toho Tenax (Teijin), SGL Carbon SE, Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd., and Toray Industries. These prominent companies are focusing on R&D activities and leveraging advanced technologies to develop new procedures for carbon fiber manufacturing to reduce costs.
Carbon fibers are a multipurpose material, which has widespread applications across various sectors. Some of its other applications include the fabrication of carbon-fiber microelectrodes, textiles, and flexible heating.