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University Research in Carbon Fibre Promises New Commercial Applications

14 January 2005

The University of Tennessee Space Institute’s newest research promises numerous commercial benefits including durable materials for improved road pavement and transportation systems.

Armed with a $950,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, UTSI will develop new low-cost carbon fibre production technologies with varied commercial applications.

“We’re fortunate that our Professor Ahmad Vakili has been working for several years with the U.S. fibre industry, helping them solve problems that require the expertise of an aerospace engineer,” Dr. Joel Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and dean of research and development at UTSI, said. “This has resulted in a unique opportunity to pursue such efforts at UTSI.”

Many technologies that use other synthetic fibres can use high strength, light-weight, low-cost carbon fibres to reduce weight, improve performance, and generate new applications that are in the nation’s utmost interest, Muehlhauser pointed out.

“Low-cost carbon fibre will provide enormous advantages to many technologies for everyday life, including applications that are not commercially feasible now,” he said.

Examples include lightweight components for automobiles and aircraft as well as load-bearing structures, which researchers say will produce major savings in energy consumption. Fibre reinforced concrete and asphalt, fuel cell electrodes, and rechargeable batteries are other examples of use of the technology.

“We think the potential for economic spin-off from this research endeavour into the area and state are substantial,” said Dr. John Caruthers, UTSI’s chief operating officer and UT associate vice president.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from our congressional delegation, including Senator Bill Frist and Congressmen Lincoln Davis and Zach Wamp.”





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