The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on February 3 announced up to $12 million in funding to advance the production of cost-competitive, high-performance carbon fiber material from renewable non-food-based feedstocks such as agricultural residues and woody biomass. Carbon fiber derived from biomass may be less costly to manufacture and offer greater environmental benefits than traditional carbon fiber produced from natural gas or petroleum. This funding supports the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which is a cross-cutting effort to ensure U.S. manufacturers remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Carbon fiber is a strong, lightweight material that can replace steel and other heavier metals to lower the cost and improve performance of many technologies, including fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy systems. For example, by investing in lightweight carbon fiber materials for vehicles, the Energy Department is helping U.S. manufacturers reduce vehicle weight to improve fuel efficiency and save drivers money at the pump. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10% can improve fuel economy by 6% to 8%.
In addition to its uses in fuel-efficient vehicles, carbon fiber can also improve other clean energy technologies including wind turbine blades, pressurized hydrogen storage vessels for fuel cells, and insulation materials for energy efficient buildings. The Energy Department intends to support projects that identify and develop a cost-competitive technology pathway to produce high-performance carbon fibers from renewable biomass. See the Energy Department press release.