Carbon fiber microwave assisted plasma (MAP) conversion process





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Published on Jul 22, 2013

During the Microwave Assisted Plasma (MAP) conversion process, crimped or spooled PAN fiber feeds into the pretreatment module and proceeds through a steam heating and stretching process.

The fiber enters an atmospheric pressure plasma oxidation module, darkening from white to black as it weaves through the first of several oxidation ovens. The number of ovens can vary based on production needs.

Inside, the atmosphere is controlled and air temperature is lower than with conventional processing. The special chemistry of the atmosphere accelerates oxidation.

The fiber then enters the carbonization phase. Microwaves and plasma provide the energy needed for carbonization. Approximately half of the material is vaporized, with gasses exhausted through an incineration system that is much smaller, less expensive and requires less energy than conventional processing systems. Also, surface treatment occurs inherently which protects the fiber and makes it easier to handle.

The remaining material is nearly 100 percent pure carbon as it enters a surface treatment process that renders it chemically compatible with resin. Surface treatment occurs inherently, near the exit of the MAP carbonization module, thus eliminating the need for a separate surface treatment module.

A thin coat of polymer is applied to the carbon during sizing, which protects the fiber and makes it easier to handle.

The carbon fiber is then dried and packaged -- typically by spooling.

Experimental data from laboratory-scale experiments suggests that Microwave Assisted Plasma conversion takes approximately 1/3 of the time and 1/2 the energy required for conventional processing.


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