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Plasma oxidation for making carbon fibers

By Mary Page Bailey |

Carbon fibers, an increasingly essential component for lightweight materials, are typically made from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) in a three-step process consisting of oxidation/stabilization, carbonization and surface treatment/sizing. 4M Industrial Oxidation, LLC (Knoxville, Tenn.; www.4mio.com) intends to commercialize a technology to produce carbon fibers that accelerates the oxidation step and uses significantly less energy than traditional techniques by replacing massive convection ovens with smaller plasma-oxidation ovens. “Our proprietary plasma technology is the cornerstone of the process,” explains Truman Bonds, chief technology officer of 4M. “Plasma oxidation only requires air and electricity, the same as conventional oxidation. Our plasma technology creates special chemistry from air that oxidizes the fiber three times faster on average than conventional oxidation,” says Bonds. 4M anticipates that the faster processing speed will allow for three times as much material to be produced in the same plant footprint as traditional oxidation. This is the rate-limiting factor in the carbon-fiber manufacturing process. The plasma electrodes also generate heat more efficiently than traditional heaters and contribute to better…
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