Tour de France Champion and ORNL to Offer Lower Cost Carbon Fiber

New manufacturing process yields high volume, low cost carbon fiber for transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure.

Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond is partnering with carbon fiber manufacturing pioneer Connie Jackson and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to bring what a press release calls “the most significant development in carbon fiber production in over 50 years” to market.

A process invented by Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) will reduce production costs by more than 50% relative to the lowest cost industrial-grade carbon fiber, according to the press release, and reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60%.

“The development of this new process demonstrates the value of coupling basic and applied research, which is a hallmark of ORNL, and it underscores the Department of Energy’s commitment to addressing our nation’s most pressing energy challenges,” said Thom Mason, Oak Ridge National Laboratory director. “The Department’s sustained investments in scientific research and development and in specialized facilities such as CFTF are enabling a variety of applications that will lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and position U.S. industry for global success.”

LeMond Composites has secured a licensing agreement with U.S. Department of Energy’s ORNL to offer this new carbon fiber to the transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure markets. This new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much, according to the newly formed company.

“We can provide the advantages of our carbon fiber to many industries by improving strength, stiffness and weight reduction,” said Connie Jackson, CEO of LeMond Composites. “If you imagine replacing steel, aluminum and fiberglass with our carbon fiber, you begin to understand the scope of the potential market.”

Growing demand from the automotive industry is due in large part to the global push to increase the fuel economy of nearly every vehicle produced. In the USA, the demand is being driven by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. These standards demand a fleet-wide average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025. One way to improve fuel economy is to reduce the weight of the cars and their component parts.

“As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber we believe that world-wide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee, a state that through Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd’s forward-thinking programs like Tennessee Promise, will provide a steady stream of quality employees for our company,” said LeMond. ”Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them. Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future.”

LeMond Composites plans to expand its campus by building its first carbon fiber production line at their recently purchased facility in Oak Ridge. The facility is located adjacent to ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.

The first commercially available product will be ready in Q1 of 2018, according to the company.

 For more information, visit LeMond Composites.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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