Photo: Precursor fiber spinning line at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research

The University of Kentucky (UK) Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and IACMI-The Composites Institute hosted a demonstration event featuring the unique precursor fiber capabilities on December 5th at the UK CAER. The event was highly participated by industry, academia and government leaders such as IACMI’s new CEO, Bryan Dods, Rodney Andrews, CAER Director, and Rob Ivester, ‎Deputy Director, EERE Advanced Manufacturing Office at U.S. Department of Energy.

The Demo Day event kicked off with remarks from Andrews and Ivester welcoming invited guests to the facility, home to the largest spinline at a university in North America. IACMI members and project partners such as Toray, a globally recognized carbon fiber manufacturer, had the opportunity attend tours of the exclusive spinline led by Matthew Weisenberger, Associate Director of CAER, and Ashley Morris, CAER Senior Research Engineer. Concurrent informal sessions featured the Kentucky Association of Manufacturing, IACMI-The Composites Institute, and other UK CAER initiatives.

“It was a great opportunity for us to showcase the particular expertise we have in spinning carbon fiber precursor,” said Dr. Matthew Weisenberger, Associate Director for UK CAER’s Materials Technologies Group. “Lightweight carbon fiber composites hold such promise across a wide spectrum of manufacturing sectors, and we know carbon fiber is going to play an increasingly important role in advanced manufacturing.”

Matt Weisenberger leads DOE's Rob Ivestor and group on tour of the precursor fiber spinning line.

Matt Weisenberger leads DOE’s Rob Ivestor and group on tour of the precursor fiber spinning line.

A fundamental understanding of precursor fiber processing is vital to manufacturing high quality carbon fiber. “You can’t make good carbon fiber without good precursor fiber,” says Weisenberger. “In order to know what makes a good precursor fiber, you have to study it and you must have data – particularly regarding its dynamic processing. That is where our team can add value to manufacturers and others involved in the carbon fiber industry. We have the data, and we are constantly involved in new and innovative research projects.”

The University of Kentucky is a founding member of IACMI’s Materials and Processing technology area and is home to the largest solution spinning line found in an academic setting in North America.  UK CAER scientists have decades of experience in process development for experimental polymers and fibers, and have worked with some of industry’s leading companies.  The fiber development laboratory bridges lab-scale to pilot-scale manufacturing development. Other Materials and Processing partners participated in the event including representatives from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and University of Tennessee.

The Carbon Materials Group at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) focuses on several areas of research, including: solution spinning of experimental fibers, conversion of precursor to carbon fiber, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites, synthesis and applications of carbon nanotubes, polymer processing, and industrial and activated carbons. Further, this is complimented with a host of materials characterization capabilities. The group features an array of talented engineers, scientists, and researchers with combined decades of experience. Areas of research strengths include polymeric precursor fiber; multifunctional fibers, smart textiles, and composites; electrically conductive/thermal textiles; use of bio-derived polymers; thermally conductive composites and interfaces; incorporation of activated carbons for lightweight/wearable chemical/biological protection; hollow fiber/multicomponent fiber spinning for developing membrane separation and multicomponent fibers; and melt spinning of thermoplastic polymers, coal-tar and petroleum pitch (isotropic and mesophase).  In addition, a main focus of the group is the training of undergraduate and graduate students through hands-on research in these focus areas.