Carbon fiber is a versatile material famous for its use in making bullet proof vests. However, carbon fibers have other uses besides stopping bullets.
Many industries rely on carbon fibers to act as a fire retardant and self extinguisher to aid in preventing and stopping the spread of fires. But what is it about the structure of carbon fiber that gives it its flame retardant property? Here are several reasons why carbon fiber structure makes the substance so useful for producing virtually fireproof textiles.
Carbon fibers are made from crystallized carbon atoms aligned in in an interlocking hexagonal pattern. This pattern locks the carbon atoms tightly together, producing a high-tensile, chemically-resistant material. The specific strength of carbon fiber, however, varies based on how the hexagonal crystals interlock. If they stack parallel to each other, then they form graphitic carbon fibers, which are more loosely held together, and so have weaker tensile strength. When the carbon crystals are folded or crumpled haphazardly together, it produces turbostratic carbon fibers, which are held closer together than graphitic carbon fibers. This closer weave of carbon crystals give carbon fiber its flame retardant properties.
The macro carbon fiber design also enables its fire retardant abilities. The fibers are about 5-10 microns in diameter, which is just a little wider than spider silk, allowing these fibers to be closely intertwined with each other. This intertwining of fibers further increases the performance of carbon fiber material in high temperatures, and even gives carbon fiber the ability to act as a self-extinguisher. By acting as a self-extinguisher, carbon fiber material can not only prevent fires from spreading, but also put out any fire it smothers.
Carbon Fiber in Composite Materials
Carbon fibers are often used to form carbon fiber composite materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced graphite. Engineering composites of carbon fiber only increase the structural rigidity of carbon fiber in high temperature applications, further improving the strength of its flame retardant and self-extinguishing properties.
Thanks to the atomic and macro structure of carbon fiber, it is capable of being used as a strong, yet lightweight flame retardant material. These features are extremely useful to many industries, making carbon fiber manufacturer services a necessity in the modern world.