Study reports on growth of carbon fiber use in pressure vessels

Eldib Engineering & Research has published a new report that shows are carbon fibers are, and will remain, a key enabler of pressure-vessel development for hydrogen fuel cell commercialization.

Eldib Engineering & Research Inc. (Berkeley Heights, N.J., USA) reports it has completed a new market research study on growth of demand of carbon fibers in reinforced vessels to store high-pressure hydrogen. The market study was carried out by a team of researchers headed by Dr. I. Andrew Eldib, president of Eldib Engineering and Research Inc. Eldib Engineering & Research (EE&R) has determined that carbon fibers are, and will remain, a key enabler of hydrogen fuel cell commercialization. The benefit of using fuel cells as an alternative to gasoline is due to the fact that fuel cells do not cause air pollution.

Fuel cells used to operate vehicles need hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen fuel is stored in carbon fiber reinforced vessels. According to the study, effective storage of gaseous hydrogen to increase vehicle range requires high pressure; the higher the pressure, the greater the mass of hydrogen that can be contained in the tank. 

The Eldib study found that as storage pressures increase, composites based on carbon fiber offer the only real alternative for the manufacture of safe and reliable storage vessels. Since these carbon fibers are light and strong, they are useful to reinforce the vessels containing hydrogen.
According to the Eldib study, the growth of demand of carbon fibers will rise quickly from 2011 to 2020. EE&R estimates that the demand for carbon fibers by 2020 will reach or slightly exceed 7,000 metric tons per year. The primary end-use segment will be automobiles (70 percent), followed by buses (18 percent) and in-transit /refueling storage (10 percent). Materials handling vehicles will compromise about 2 percent of the demand in 2020. 

Vessels used for hydrogen storage are currently classified as Type I through Type IV. Typically, only Type III and Type IV vessels use carbon fibers. According to the study, the advantages of Type III and Type IV are higher allowable pressures, as well as reduced weight compared to metal tanks. Carbon fiber storage vessels are manufactured by progressively winding carbon fibers around a core cylinder: either aluminum (Type III) or polymer (Type IV). The amount of fiber used in each cylinder is dictated, in part, by the maximum operating pressure required of the cylinder.

The Eldib study identifies seven major producers of carbon fiber wound high pressure hydrogen vessels. These companies include Dynetek Industries of Calgary, Alberta (Canada); Faber Industries of Italy; Lincoln Composites of Lincoln, Neb., USA; Luxfer Gas Cylinders of Riverside, Calif., USA; Quantum Technologies of Irvine, Calif., USA; Sleegers Machining & Fabricating Inc. of London, Ontario (Canada); and Worthington Industries of Columbus, Ohio, USA.

For additional information, contact Eldib at +1 908-263-7048 or