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Ford Teams Up with DowAksa and DOE to Further Carbon Fiber Research

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/13/2015 Megan Stewart

Back in 2012, Ford announced a partnership with Dow Chemical to develop carbon fiber materials for mainstream use in vehicles. Now, in an effort to speed up research into carbon fiber manufacturing innovations, Ford has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy and DowAksa to reduce vehicle weight without sacrificing strength and fuel efficiency.


Both Ford and DowAksa join the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, which is newly formed entity of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation supported by the government. "This opportunity builds upon Ford's current joint development agreement with Dow Chemical and accelerates our timeline to introduce carbon fiber composites into high-volume applications," said Jim deVries, Ford's head of Materials and Manufacturing Research, in a recent statement.

Carbon fiber is currently used in race cars, but is relatively new to the automotive industry. Few cars make use of the material, like the BMW M3, mainly because the cost of preparing the materials is much higher than the likes of steel or aluminum. But while it may come at a premium, carbon fiber is nearly 10 times stronger than regular-grade steel and comes in around a quarter of the weight. Its strength can also be adjusted to make it as stiff or as flexible as needed for a particular use.

Not only will the companies be researching how to develop high-volume techniques for automotive-grade carbon fiber, but they will aim to overcome its high cost and limited availability. This project aligns with Ford's Blueprint for Sustainability, and while implementing the use of carbon fiber may be one of the bigger goals, both Ford and DowAksa are working to reduce the energy needed to produce the components, as well as developing the proper recycling processes.

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By the end of the decade, Ford wants to trim between 250 and 750 pounds from its vehicles, and lighter materials will be a key factor in this transformation, reports Reuters. Other models that use lightweight technology include the Fiesta, which uses high-strength boron steel, as well as the F-150, which utilizes an aluminum alloy material. A concept Fusion on display last year mixed carbon fiber with aluminum, high-strength steel, magnesium, and other materials to reduce weight by 25 percent.

Source: Ford, Reuters


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