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Carbon Fiber VS Steel: Which Is Stronger?

For a long time, metal steel materials have been widely used to make strong and durable structures. In contrast, carbon fiber is a relatively new structural material, but its performance is excellent and impressive, so it poses a great threat to steel materials. This article makes a simple comparison of the characteristics of these two materials, and gives examples of some industries that are shifting to carbon fiber.

What is carbon fiber?

Carbon fiber is composed of 92% or higher carbon elements, and has high tensile strength due to its unique crystal structure. It is widely used in the manufacture of lightweight and high-strength composite parts by compounding with a polymer matrix. The physical properties of carbon make carbon fiber very strong and hard. Generally speaking, the modulus of elasticity (a measure of material resistance to deformation) of PAN-based carbon fiber is between 150-700 GPa.

The reason why carbon fiber has a wide range of mechanical properties is that the stiffness and strength can be adjusted through the adjustment of the manufacturing process. The tensile strength of carbon fiber is the highest among all known available materials. Although many materials including steel can have high stiffness and tensile strength, the real benefit of carbon fiber is high strength but low density (about 1.6-2.0g/cm?), so it has the advantage of high specific strength. This makes the carbon fiber material have high tensile strength while being lightweight.

    In some typical applications, such as aerospace, ground vehicles, and wind turbines, heavier materials consume more energy and cause greater wear over time. Therefore, carbon fiber has obvious advantages in the above fields and has gained widely used.

    What are the characteristics of steel?

    Because steel has a high elastic modulus of about 200 GPa, steel has long been the material of choice for various structures. This high rigidity and its relatively rich characteristics make it a ubiquitous manufacturing material.

    However, the density of steel is about 8g/cm?, and its weight may bring a lot of burden, especially compared with carbon fiber, while providing the same high rigidity, the weight of steel is about 4-5 times the weight of carbon fiber materials. In terms of material tensile strength, the tensile strength of steel of 300-600MPa is also significantly lower than the 3000-7000MPa of PAN-based carbon fiber.

What are the common applications of carbon fiber?

    Carbon fiber can be used to produce a variety of products. Any component that needs to be strong and lightweight is ideal for carbon fiber composites. They are a popular choice for mobile phone cases because they provide a high level of protection to prevent damage.

    They are increasingly used in unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which are light in weight, light in structure, and heavy in payload. In the automotive industry, advances in carbon fiber technology have the potential to reduce the weight of cars by nearly half, and carbon fiber will not be affected by the thermal expansion of steel or aluminum.

    Medical imaging tables benefit from the strength and stiffness of carbon fiber. Even after high doses of X-rays and gamma rays, they can maintain critical dimensions under load without breaking over time. Therefore, it has become the most popular application of carbon fiber in recent years. Hot spot.

    Compared with steel, how easy is carbon fiber cutting?

    Carbon fiber is easier to cut than steel. It is light in weight and easy to handle. A rotating wheel or saw with diamond or tungsten carbide blades can easily cut carbon fiber composite materials and make prototyping easy.

    Although steel is a reliable material, the continuous progress of carbon fiber manufacturing technology and the wider application range make it a powerful substitute for steel materials.