Polymers and similar compounds, are the building blocks of countless things around us. Right from the keyboards of our computers, to entire jet planes, we are surrounded by polymers and similar substances. Carbon fiber, also known as CG, graphite fiber, or carbon graphite, is another such useful material.
As the name suggests, carbon fiber is a fabric or 'cloth', made from carbon fibers. It is made from a thin string of carbon atoms. The diameter of the fibers is as small as 0.005 - 0.010 mm, which is in fact, even thinner than our hair. The atoms in the fiber are closely bonded in a set of microscopic crystals (hexagonal in shape), which are aligned parallel to the longer axis of the fiber, such that the alignment of the crystals is always in the direction of the length of the fiber. These fibers are sinned into yarns and woven into regular fabrics.
Now, there are two ways in which this fabric can be used, either as a usual fabric, or it can be integrated into plastic resin to form a composite material, known as carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The latter has a high strength-to-weight ratio. There are three important aspects that you need to know, one - it has very high strength, two - it is very expensive, and three - it is very light. Due to its good strength and weight features, tensile strength, and low density, it has various applications in military engineering, civil engineering, and aerospace projects. It is also used in cars, spectacles, electronic products, etc.
The weave of this fabric influences many of its properties. Some of the commonly used weaves are as follows:
- Plain Weave: The plain weave involves a fiber weave, over and under in each direction. This kind of weave is good for lightweight applications, and can be used with sufficient flexibility without getting damaged.
- Twill Weave: The twill weave includes an over and under weave after every two. This weave fabric can be easily used for complex and compound curves. also, it offers a greater degree of flexibility without damage.
- Satin Weave: The satin weave involves an over and under after every 12. It looks better than the other two, and to a certain degree, this weave possesses more strength and flexibility.
It must be noted that, even though the aforementioned weaves possess progressive degrees of strengths, the material in the combination with which they are used matters a lot.
Carbon fabric can be cut with simple tools like a knife or any blade, which is sharp enough. Problems arise when it has some integrated matter, such as plastic or fiberglass, or for that matter, any fiber within it. Then, the necessity for use of power tools might appear. Industrial and non-industrial uses of carbon fiber sheets are quite common and well-known. In recent years, car interiors and motorbike exteriors have either been made, or just touched up with carbon fiber.