Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF)—a 42,000 sq. ft. innovative technology facility. The CFTF offers a highly flexible, highly instrumented carbon fiber line for demonstrating advanced technology scalability and producing market-development volumes of prototypical carbon fibers, and serves as the last step before commercial production scale.

The facility, with its 390-ft. long processing line, is capable of custom unit operation configuration and has a capacity of up to 25 tons per year, allowing industry to validate conversion of their carbon fiber precursors at semi-production scale.


CFTF line details

Tow Feed Station

Crimped or spooled polymer fiber in tow format feeds into the pretreatment module and proceeds through the tow band former and moistener prior to heat treatment. The station is designed for multiple tow sizes ranging from 3,000 to 80,000 filaments.

Melt Spun Precursor Fiber Production

Polymer pellets such as lignin can be fed into an extruder and melted through a combination of heat and pressure.The molten precursor feeds into a metering pump, then through an extrusion die to turn very fine filaments into a continuous web up to 1 foot wide. The melt spinner has bicomponent filament capability upgradable to tricomponent.

Stabilization Ovens

Fibers in tow form make multiple passes through four oven zones. Each thermal zone has three distinct flow regimes and is configurable. Thermal Zone 2 is corrosive-proof, which enables it to function as a desulfurization unit. Temperature ranges are 100 to 400°C. A conveyer belt enables processing in tow or web format.

High Temperature Furnace

Low Temperature Furnace

The material makes a single pass through two carbonization furnaces. The low-temperature furnace is rated at l,ooooc and has the added capability to produce nanoporous fibers. Approximately half of the material is vaporized during carbonization, with gases exhausted through a pollution treatment system. Both furnaces are capable of processing in tow or web format.

Surface Treatment

The remaining mater ial is nearly 100% pure car bon as it enters a surface treatment process that renders it chemically compatible with resin. A thin coat of polymer is applied to the carbon during sizing, which protects the fiber and makes it easier to handle. The carbon fiber is then dried and packaged.

Role of the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

Demonstrate low-cost carbon fiber technology scalability with the last scaling step before full-scale commercial production

Produce development quantities of low-cost carbon fiber needed for large-scale material and process evaluations and prototyping

Deploy a training system, including educational internships and industrial training and recertification, for developing the future carbon fiber workforce

Learn More

Carbon fiber is a strong, lightweight enabling material for improved performance in many applications. However, use of carbon fiber composites in cost-sensitive, high-volume industrial applications such as automobiles, wind energy, oil and gas, and infrastructure is limited because of today’s relatively high price.

By working closely with industry, the CFTF serves to accelerate the development and deployment of lower-cost carbon fiber materials and processes and create a new generation of strong, lightweight composite materials that will improve America’s competitiveness.


Fact Sheet