By Han Xin, People's Daily
Carbon fibers, dubbed "black gold material," are of high tensile strength, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. They can be applied in a wide range of fields such as aerospace, energy equipment, transportation, and sports equipment.
They turn wind turbines and new energy vehicles lighter, carrier rockets more energy-efficient, and fishing poles and rackets more durable. As a matter of fact, carbon fibers are now seen in almost every industry and are seeping into every household.
Carbon fibers are divided into small-tow and large-tow categories. A bundle of more than 48,000 carbon fibers would fall under the large-tow category.
Small-tow carbon fibers are of high performance, which nonetheless involve high costs. Large-tow ones, on the contrary, are much more cheaper but still maintain reliability. Hence, they enjoy wider application in the market.
Recently, China's first 10,000-ton large-tow carbon fiber project was put into use in the carbon fiber industrial base of Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co. Ltd.
The products are on par with similar overseas items in functionality. Every bundle has 48,000 carbon fibers, each of which is as thin as 1/7 to 1/8 of the diameter of hair but features strength seven to nine times that of steel. The carbon content is more than 95 percent.
This means China has made important breakthroughs in the production of large-tow carbon fibers and the domestic manufacturing of equipment.
As China's high-tech industry develops, carbon fibers have embraced wider areas of application.
According to statistics, the country's demand for the material surged rapidly in the past decade. China saw a demand of 62,000 tons for carbon fibers in 2021, up 27.7 percent year on year.
In addition to the growing demand in the aerospace industry, the new energy sector led by the wind turbine industry has become an important engine driving the development of carbon fibers, taking the carbon fiber industry to a new phase of development featuring industrial application.
Such demand will keep growing in the foreseeable future, given the constant equipment upgrading in the commercial aviation and unmanned aerial vehicle industries in China.
Thanks to the expanding market, the Chinese carbon fiber industry is seeing a better structure and delivering products that are of higher performance and lower cost.
Gangke carbon material company in north China's Shanxi province is now capable of producing all major carbon fiber products, and leading Chinese carbon fiber manufacturer Zhongfu Shenying is also building a 30,000-ton carbon fiber plant.
For some time, China has constantly made new breakthroughs in the manufacturing and key technologies of carbon fibers and expanded relevant production capacity thanks to policy support and the efforts made by enterprises. The market share of domestically produced carbon fiber products climbed to 46.9 percent in 2021 from 31.7 percent in 2019.
China boasts a complete and independent industrial system and enjoys advantages as a super large market, which creates rich scenarios for the commercial application of carbon fibers. Its large R&D teams and emerging innovative market entities also provide solid support for the innovation of carbon fiber technologies.
Currently, there's still big room for improvement in the performance and stability of China's domestically made carbon fiber products, though the country's carbon fiber industry has made great strides. The country is still relying on imported products when it comes to core carbon fiber equipment.
In the future, China will make more innovations in key technologies and make its carbon fiber production internationally competitive, so as to promote high-quality development of the carbon fiber industry.