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CarboSax: new joint venture for more sustainable carbon fiber production forms in Germany

PD Glasseiden, a Germany-based producer of fiberglass; European Carbon Fiber GmbH; and the ForschungsCampus Open Hybrid LabFactory e.V., established under the auspices of the Lower Saxony Research Centre for Vehicle Technology at the TU Braunschweig and Volkswagen AG have formed a joint venture—CarboSax GmbH—to pursue developing, manufacturing and distributing more sustainable carbon fibers in Germany.

In the first step at a location in Chemnitz, Saxony, CarboSax will build a pilot line for the sustainable production of carbon fibers. The objective of this carbon fiber pilot line production is a significant reduction in production costs by 30% over currently available commercial carbon fibers. This cost reduction is required to further enable the use of carbon fiber in mass production in the automotive industry, mechanical engineering and wind power. An equal objective is a reduction of at least 50% in CO2 emissions from carbon fiber production.

With conventional carbon fiber production, approximately 1/3 of the energy supply is the natural gas used for off-gas treatment and/or heating ovens. CarboSax intends for its production to use 100% renewable energy resources—including the gas supply. Excess wind power will be stored locally and the energy-intensive operation of the carbon fiber line will be optimized through system optimization and improved operating strategies.

CarboSax intends for its pilot line production to set the world benchmark in local carbon fiber production using renewable energy sources.

In addition, with local production, long transport distances for carbon fibers produced become unnecessary, thereby avoiding additional CO2 emissions.

An essential part of the technology development is the use of precursor materials with significantly improved environmental performance. CarboSax will substitute increasing amounts of renewable resources such as lignin for the the petroleum-based raw material ACN (acrylonitrile) used to date,. In addition, the repro-toxic solvents currently used will be replaced for the first time by non-toxic solvents.

CarboSax GmbH will use cutting-edge technologies to improve overall system performance, with automated process control and monitoring. In particular, the increased processing speed based on improved process control during the various stages of the process offers great potential to reduce costs.

Another focus will be the implementation of the latest findings in materials research. Quantum mechanical approaches enable improved process control from substantive thermodynamic knowledge of the reaction kinetics.

CarboSax will be led by Dr. Armin Plath, who led lightweight construction efforts at Volkswagen AG and also serves on the board of Open Hybrid LabFactory e.V. Dr. Plath also previously worked for BMW i.

CarboSax intends to create a basis for both specialized niche production and future full-scale plants in Germany. The aim is to establish the entire value chain for carbon composites with powerful pilot plants in Germany.

Fiber-reinforced composites with carbon fibers have very beneficial weight-related mechanical properties. Based on fiber reinforced plastics, components can be manufactured, which allow up to 50% weight reduction over comparable steel parts and 30% compared to steel components.


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