A new composites company founded by Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has signed a licensing agreement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tenn.) The agreement will make the Oak Ridge-based LeMond Composites the first company to offer this new carbon fiber to the transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure markets.
“We can provide the advantages of our carbon fiber to many industries by improving strength, stiffness, and weight reduction. If you imagine replacing steel, aluminum, and fiberglass with our carbon fiber, you begin to understand the scope of the potential market,” said Connie Jackson, CEO of LeMond Composites. “Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology.”
A “breakthrough” process invented by Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) will reportedly reduce production costs by more than 50% relative to the lowest cost industrial grade carbon fiber. The company claims this new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much. Until now, manufacturing carbon fiber was an extremely energy-intensive process. This new method reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60%.
Jackson and several of her ORNL teammates joined LeMond Composites in 2016.
“The development of this new process demonstrates the value of coupling basic and applied research, which is a hallmark of ORNL, and it underscores the Department of Energy’s commitment to addressing our nation’s most pressing energy challenges,” said Thom Mason, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director. “The department’s sustained investments in scientific research and development and in specialized facilities such as CFTF are enabling a variety of applications that will lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and position U.S. industry for global success.”
“We understand the growing demand from the automotive industry and we are currently in negotiations with several of the world’s leading automotive brands and their suppliers,” said LeMond.
“As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber, we believe that world-wide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee,” LeMond continued. ”Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them. Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future. On a personal note, the bike riding in this area is incredible.”
LeMond Composites plans to expand its campus by building its first carbon fiber production line at their recently purchased facility at 103 Palladium Way in Oak Ridge. The facility is strategically located immediately adjacent to ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.
The first commercially available product will be ready in Q1 of 2018.
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Part of the development strategy will focus on two new sectors for the company: aerospace and automotive.