Enviromental Impact of Carbon Fiber

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Basics

Sources of Impact/Pollution

Source Material

  • The typical feedstock for Carbon Fiber Production is Rayon
  • This is reformed cellulose, so in theory any celluloistic biomas can be used
  • Need to determine if this is often sustainably sourced
  • CONCLUSION needs more research

Production

  • The rayon is then put in an industrial kiln
  • This most likely uses electricity or Natural Gas
  • Natural Gas as of now is most often a fossil fuel, thus this would contribute to Climate Change
  • The burning of fuels could theoretically produce Nitrogen Oxides and other pollutants, but the scubbers used make this impact vary from site to site
  • Electric Kilns would use grid or onsite power, most likely a mix of Fossil Fuel Based, Nuclear, and Renewable Resource Based Power thus impact depends on how the power is produced, but unless stated otherwise it probably used fossil fuels (Or if it is a nuclear/renewable region such as europe)
  • Conclusion Most Likely Releases Greenhouse Gasses (Predominantly Carbon Dioxide) Thus Contributing to Global Warming, Minor Pollution Risk of Carbon Monoxide, and Nitrogen Oxides Mainly, as well as trace amounts of other compounds depending on fuel source used, burner used, and scrubbers used (This applies to the on site kiln burners and/or fossil based powerplants used)

Post Production Treatment

  • Carbon Fibers are sometimes Coated in a thin Film of Epoxy to maintain structure (Citation Needed to see if this is the ONLY coating/the correct one)
  • These epoxy resins tend to be petrochemical based, and thus emit greenhouse gasses and possibly contribute to pollutant emmisions depending on type and facilities used to produce it
  • Conclusion Emits Greenhouse Gasses and possibly polluting compounds depending on coating used, and how said coating is produced

Shipment

  • Typical Shipment associated Pollution
  • Depends on where the source is
  • Probably similar to other materials and is thus neglible

Factors in its Favor

Reduction Of Use due to Lifespan

  • It does not rust, and tends to not biodegrade and thus should have a longer lifetime
  • Conclusion probable reduction, but needs research to be concrete

Material Sourcing

  • Can use any input feedstock, even paper mill leftovers, paper recycling, etc, and thus COULD be sourced perhaps more sustainably (less arable land used, less tractors used, less water used etc), but need to see IF this is actually done
  • Conclusion probable reduction, but needs research to be concrete

Fuel Savings in Vehicular Use Cases

  • Due to its ability to replace metal componetss in some cases, it may save fuel used by cars and aircraft etc, and thus may reduce greenhouse gas emmisions and polluting compound emissions
  • Conclusion probable reduction, but needs research to be concrete

Fuel Savings Due to Material Replacement

  • See How it Compares to Aluminium Production Via Electrolysis, How it Compares to Fiberglass Production, Kevlar Production Etc
  • Conclusion probable reduction, but needs research to be concrete

Recyclability

  • It is near impossible to recycle into continous fiber, but can be chopped and put into chopped carbon fiber composites, it can also be used as gassifier fuel, but this would potentially release pollutants, and depending on sourcing also be carbon positive
  • Conclusion Neutral Impact?

Overall Conclusion

See Also

Useful Links