logo

U.S. proposes composite industry institute

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

March 26, 2014

The federal government is offering up to $70 million in funding — it has to be matched — to create a new Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking proposals for an institute that focuses on overcoming the barriers to wider spread use of advanced composites, which are seen as a critical way to support national energy goals and domestic prosperity.

Industry analysts predict the global carbon fiber polymer composite market will grow to $25.2 billion by 2019 and glass fiber reinforcements to reach $16.4 billion by 2016.

Advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites combine strong fibers with tough plastics to manufacturer materials that are lighter and stronger than steel. The goal of the new institute will be to lower the cost of advanced composites by 50 percent, reduce the energy to make composites by 75 percent and increase recyclability to more than 95 percent within 10 years.

Advances in low-cost composite materials will help manufacturers build longer, lighter and stronger blades for wind turbines; make storage tanks for vehicles that run on hydrogen and natural gas; extend the service life of infrastructure; and could reduce passenger car weight by 50 percent, which would improve fuel efficiency without compromising performance or safety. That would help to save more than $5,000 in fuel over the lifetime of an average car at today’s gasoline prices.

In its call for proposals, the Department of Energy says it is “pursuing the promise” of composite materials. Applicants from private industry, national laboratories, universities and non-profit organizations need to submit a concept paper by April 22.