The Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich.) announced on Feb. 25 that it received a $5 million grant from the Centers of Energy Excellence (COEE) program through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) to help accelerate efforts to manufacture a lower-cost carbon fiber for use in industrial market applications, including transportation. Dow will work to significantly reduce carbon fiber manufacturing costs through innovative polymer precursor development incorporating energy-efficient processing, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tenn.). According to the office of Michigan’s governor Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoE) is providing $5 million in matching funds (through ORNL) and Dow intends to contribute as much as $10 million to the effort in in-kind resources.
ORNL has worked for years on developing alternative and less-costly precursor materials, including kraft lignin and commodity-grade polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor, as well as more cost-effective methods to convert the precursor into fiber form and oxidize it (see CT December 2003 (p. 6) or visit short.compositesworld.com/qHRflPqT).
According to Dow, the project will assist in transforming and diversifying Michigan’s economy through alternative energy generation, as well as manufacturing associated with the wind energy and transportation industries.
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The partnership will look at opportunities in the production of carbon fiber aerostructures, prepegs as well as 3D printing of aerospace components and airframe panels.