Composite Materials

Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber (carbon fibre), alternatively graphite fiber, carbon graphite or CF, is a material consisting of extremely thin fibers about 0.005–0.010 mm in diameter and composed mostly of carbon atoms. The carbon atoms are bonded together in microscopic crystals that are more or less aligned parallel to the long axis of the fiber. The crystal alignment makes the fiber very strong for its size. Several thousand carbon fibers are twisted together to form a yarn, which may be used by itself or woven into a fabric.

Carbon fiber has many different weave patterns and can be combined with a plastic resin and wound or molded to form composite materials such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic (also referenced as carbon fiber) to provide a high strength-to-weight ratio material. The density of carbon fiber is also considerably lower than the density of steel, making it ideal for applications requiring low weight. The properties of carbon fiber such as high tensile strength, low weight, and low thermal expansion make it very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, and motorsports, along with other competition sports.

Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed at DuPont in 1965, this high strength material was first commercially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires. Typically it is spun into ropes or fabric sheets that can be used as such or as an ingredient in composite material components.

Currently, Kevlar has many applications, ranging from bicycle tires and racing sails to body armor because of its high tensile strength-to-weight ratio—famously: “…5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis…” When used as a woven material, it is suitable for mooring lines and other underwater applications.

Kevlar is well-known component of personal armor such as combat helmets, Ballistic face masks, and Ballistic vests. The PASGT helmet and vest used by United States military forces since the early 1980s both have Kevlar as a key component, as do their replacements. Other military uses include bulletproof facemasks used by sentries and spall liners used to protect the crews of armored fighting vehicles. Related civilian applications include Emergency Service’s protection gear if it involves high heat (e.g., tackling a fire), and Kevlar body armor such as vests for police officers, security, and SWAT.

Sports equipment:
Kevlar is very popular material for racing canoes.

It is used as an inner lining for some bicycle tires to prevent punctures, and due to its excellent heat resistance, is used for fire poi wicks. It is used for motorcycle safety clothing, especially in the areas featuring padding such as shoulders and elbows. It was also used as speed control patches for certain Soap Shoes models. In Kyudo or Japanese archery, it may be used as an alternative to more expensive hemp for bow strings. It is one of the main materials used for paraglider suspension lines.

Sometimes called the “space age metal”, it has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant (including sea water, aqua regia and chlorine) transition metal with a silver color. The two most useful properties of the metal form are corrosion resistance and the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal. In its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as most steels, but 45% lighter.

Applications for titanium mill products (sheet, plate, bar, wire, forgings, castings) can be found in industrial, aerospace, recreational, and emerging markets.

Titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, molybdenum, among other elements, to produce strong lightweight alloys for aerospace (jet engines, missiles, and spacecraft), military, industrial process (chemicals and petro-chemicals, desalination plants, pulp, and paper), automotive, agri-food, medical prostheses, orthopedic implants, dental and endodontic instruments and files, dental implants, sporting goods, jewelry, mobile phones, and other applications.

Titanium metal is used in automotive applications, particularly in automobile or motorcycle racing, where weight reduction is critical while maintaining high strength and rigidity. The metal is generally too expensive to make it marketable to the general consumer market, other than high-end products, particularly for the racing/performance market. Late model Corvettes have been available with titanium exhausts.

Sporting Equipment:
Titanium is used in many sporting goods: tennis rackets, golf clubs, lacrosse stick shafts; cricket, hockey, lacrosse, and football helmet grills; and bicycle frames and components. Although not a mainstream material for bicycle production, titanium bikes have been used by race teams and adventure cyclists. Titanium alloys are also used in spectacle frames. This results in a rather expensive, but highly durable and long lasting frame which is light in weight and causes no skin allergies. Many backpackers use titanium equipment, including cookware, eating utensils, lanterns, and tent stakes. Though slightly more expensive than traditional steel or aluminum alternatives, these titanium products can be significantly lighter without compromising strength.