The supply of carbon fiber will remain tight until the year 2000, a new global market analysis says. ``A shortage exists,'' said Benjamin Rasmussen, a composites industry consultant with BMR Associates in Watchung, N.J. ``But if announced capacity increases go into effect, there will be enough carbon to supply demands until 2003.''
Rasmussen's 28-page ``Carbon fiber business'' report addresses industry issues and company strategies. It also presents volumes and values by market and application through 2006. The report pegs current annual worldwide production of polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber at 19.5 million pounds and pitch-based fiber at 2.2 million pounds and projects annual growth of 10-15 percent.
The report discusses the two-tier market structure for PAN-based carbon fiber and the strategies of Akzo Nobel NV's Fortafil Fibers unit in Knoxville, Tenn., and Zoltek Cos. Inc. in St. Louis to increase capacity for their high-tow, low-cost fiber products.
Short-term, the electronics industry will consume significant quantities of PAN-based carbon fiber as a shielding material for computer circuit boards, military electromagnetic and radio-frequency systems and aircraft lightning-strike protection.
Two emerging applications of pitch-based carbon fibers involve use for thermal dissipation as a metal replacement and rechargeable batteries of lithium instead of nickel cadmium. Some Japan-based suppliers of pitch-based fiber have made progress in developing the material's crystalline structure for lithium batteries for next-generation portable tools, appliances and electronics.
The report anticipates major growth in use of carbon fiber for glued, laminated beams and offshore drilling equipment.
Other applications include shipping containers, infrastructure, seismic protection, piers, sporting goods and automotive parts.
``When you project, there is not enough material to supply all these applications,'' Rasmussen said. ``Projected market demands will require additional capacity increases after the year 2003.''
The report costs $2,500 for two bound copies.
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