Clemson University receives grant for carbon fiber precursor research

Clemson's Amod Ogale will use the $2 million to research development of lower-cost precursor materials for carbon fiber manufacture.

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Clemson University (Clemson, SC, US) reports that Amod Ogale, director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers and Films and Dow Chemical professor of chemical engineering, has received a US$2 million grant to research development of lower-cost precursor materials for carbon fiber manufacture.

Ogale, who has more than 30 years experience with composite materials, received the funding via a collaboration with the Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware (UDCCM, Newark, DE, US). The center, which is leading the research, has received US$14.9 million from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) for the Tailorable Feedstock and Forming Program.

Jack Gillespie, the director of the center, is leading the team. Researchers from Drexel University and Virginia Tech are also collaborating.

“It’s an honor to be part of such a talented team,” Ogale says. “Carbon fibers are commercially used in high-performance aircraft applications, including some in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. However, such fibers are also very expensive, so there is significant interest in reducing their cost.”

The objective of the research is to develop a low-cost carbon fiber precursor. From it, researchers hope to create a new type of composite material called TuFF — tailorable universal feedstock for forming. Ogale says he plans to use his expertise in working with carbon fibers on a microscopic level to generate a novel microtexture in carbon fibers.

“We will help the team understand how the molecular structure and processing conditions will influence the microstructure and strength of the resulting carbon fibers,” Ogale says.

The success of TuFF as a new material is expected to be transformative for complex curvature composite structures for aerospace and automotive applications in the defense and commercial sectors.

“UDCCM is excited to lead a team of composite experts from Clemson University, Drexel University and Virginia Tech to develop a new composite material and manufacturing process,” says Rob Adkinson, who is the TuFF program manager at the University of Delaware. “Bypassing all of the manufacturing problems associated with advanced composites, our approach will allow us for the first time to make composite parts having aerospace properties at automotive prices.”

Ogale is a Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers and has been internationally recognized for his contributions to carbon fibers and reinforced plastics. He received the 2013 Graffin Lecturer Award from the American Carbon Society.