Carbon fibers

Carbon fibers or carbon fibres (alternatively CF, graphite fiber or graphite fibre) are fibers about 5 to 10 micrometers (0.00020–0.00039 in) in diameter and composed mostly of carbon atoms.[1] Carbon fibers have several advantages: high stiffness, high tensile strength, high strength to weight ratio, high chemical resistance, high-temperature tolerance, and low thermal expansion.[2] These properties have made carbon fiber very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, motorsports, and other competition sports.[3] However, they are relatively expensive compared to similar fibers, such as glass fiber, basalt fibers, or plastic fibers.[4]

Fabric made of woven carbon filaments

To produce a carbon fiber, the carbon atoms are bonded together in crystals that are more or less aligned parallel to the fiber's long axis as the crystal alignment gives the fiber a high strength-to-volume ratio (in other words, it is strong for its size). Several thousand carbon fibers are bundled together to form a tow, which may be used by itself or woven into a fabric.

Carbon fibers are usually combined with other materials to form a composite. For example, when permeated with a plastic resin and baked, it forms carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (often referred to as carbon fiber), which has a very high strength-to-weight ratio and is extremely rigid although somewhat brittle. Carbon fibers are also composited with other materials, such as graphite, to form reinforced carbon-carbon composites, which have a very high heat tolerance.

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