In January we predicted that in “2016 trends will show more carbon in marine, aviation & aerospace…”, well here are some of the significant achievements reported during the first quarter about new carbon applications in various industries.

In Building construction

The 80-ton roof which Apple believes is the largest freestanding carbon fiber roof ever made, was created by Dubai-based Premier Composite Technologies. It was assembled and tested in a Dubai desert before being shipped in pieces to Cupertino, California. The circular roof is made up of 44 identical radial panels averaging 70 feet long and 11 feet wide, and each connects to a small central hub positioned in the middle.

In new Satellite technology

Facebook is exploring new territories. Around 40% of the world is currently connected to the internet and Facebook is looking to connect the rest of the world with affordable and accessible internet. Connecting people in remote areas using traditional methods is a very costly and faced plenty of challenges. While progress has been made in connecting more than 90% of the world’s population to 2G networks, getting to 100 percent using conventional approaches is unlikely to happen in the near term. Facebook is looking at solving these problems and is developing a range of new technologies, including high-altitude aircraft, satellites, free space optics, and terrestrial solutions to help accelerate the process of bringing connectivity to the unserved and underserved. The company announced that its first full-scale model of Aquila — the high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft designed by our aerospace team in the U.K. — is complete and ready for flight testing. With Aquila, the team has designed new aircraft architecture that can support staying in the air for months at a time. Aquila is solar powered, and when launched, it will create a 50-km communications radius for up to 90 days, beaming a signal down to the people in that area. This signal will be received by small towers and dishes that will then convert it into a Wi-Fi or LTE network that people can connect to with their cellphones and smartphones. To make all of that possible, the team had to make the plane really big and really light. Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 airplane but weighs a third as much as an electric car. The wing is made from carbon fiber that is stronger than steel for the same mass of material. The wing will fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet during the day — above commercial air traffic and above the weather. The air at that altitude is thin, about 5% that of sea level, so a high aspect ratio wing and an under-cambered airfoil is utilized in the design to optimize its lift-to-drag ratio. During the day, the aircraft will fly at 90,000 feet to maximize its ability to charge its solar cells. At night, it will glide down to 60,000 feet, taking advantage of gravitational potential energy to consume less power. Test flights for the full-scale model should begin later this year, following the sub-scale flight tests from earlier in the year in the U.K.

In Aerospace exploration

Engineers building NASA’s Orion are making manufacturing improvements for the spacecraft ahead of its missions to deep space destinations near the moon and on the journey to Mars. The Orion capsule’s heat shield successfully survived its test flight last year reaching temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds approximately 80 percent of what it will endure when it comes back from missions near the moon, all while keeping the temperature inside the crew module in the mid–70s. Post-flight examinations of the heat shield confirmed it performed well within expected tolerances.
The heat shield was composed of a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin that gave the crew module its circular shape on the bottom and provided structural support, on top of which a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb structure was placed. The honeycomb structure had 320,000 tiny cells that were individually filled by hand with an ablative material called Avcoa designed to wear away as Orion returned to Earth through the atmosphere. During the process, each individual cell was filled by hand as part of a serial process, cured in a large oven, X-rayed and then robotically machined to meet precise thickness requirements. However, during the manufacture of the heat shield for Orion’s flight test, engineers determined that the strength of the Avcoat/honeycomb structure was below expectations. While analysis showed, and the flight proved that the heat shield would work for the test, the EM–1 Orion will experience colder temperatures in space and hotter temperatures upon reentry, requiring a stronger heat shield. Through lessons and data obtained from building and flying the heat shield, the team was able to make a design update for the Avcoat block design that will meet the EM–1 strength requirements. Carbon fiber is at the center of the improvements. It is also expected to provide a cost savings and shorten the current heat shield manufacturing timeline by about two months. Engineers have now folded the update into the design review that will lock down the design for the next version.

In Automotive

The Geneva Auto-Dhow was a triumph for the introduction and use of carbon fiber in automotive application for new upscale automotive. Lamborghini introduced the new Centinario with a body made of Steel and carbon. McLaren introduced its new 2016 675LT Spider and 650S GT3 racing car models where carbon is predominant. Finally, the Pagani Huayra already one of the most lightweight and powerful sports cars, now Pagani is introducing the Huayra BC, which is even lighter and more powerful thanks to carbon fiber and titanium.

Clearly the trend is continuing and we will continue to see more applications of carbon fibers in many industries eager to achieve more efficiency with lighter material.

Libra6 Management, Corp. invests in Cleantech and alternative technology and is currently leading an investment in California Carbon Industry.

California Carbon Industry, Inc. is focused on designing, developing, and manufacturing advanced carbon and composite materials and products for use in the aerospace, automotive, marine, art, furniture and construction industries.