August 2001

From Virginia Tech

Real-time observation of polymer processes allows enhancement of carbon fiber production

(Blacksburg, Va., Aug. 30, 2001) -- Many important polymers are strengthened with carbon fibers for applications that range from automotive and airplane parts to highways and oil rigs. How are the best fibers made? In order to determine a material's durability, it has to be destroyed and analyzed to learn how it had formed.

Now researchers can use in-situ infrared spectroscopy to observe -- in real time -- how various ratios of component materials (co-monomers) react to form polymers that are later converted to carbon fibers. Virginia Tech researchers will report their findings at the American Chemical Society's 222nd national meeting, Aug. 26-30 in Chicago.

Timothy E. Long, Virginia Tech chemistry faculty member, has been a champion of in-situ observation, not only during exploratory research, but during material manufacturing. Now he and Virginia Tech chemistry professor James E. McGrath are demonstrating the benefits with polymeric materials for carbon fiber precursors.

The paper, "Determination of reactivity rations for acrylonitrile/methyl methacrylate radical copolymerization via non-linear methodologies using real time FTIR (POLY 532)," will be presented Thursday, Aug. 30, at 2:10 p.m., in McCormick Place South Room S102B/C, Level 1. The work was performed by Virginia Tech graduate students Kent B. Wiles and A.J. Pasquale, former staff member V.A. Bhanu, Long, and McGrath.

The paper describes the controlled synthesis of carbon fiber precursors in an attempt to enable efficient conversion to carbon fibers and preferred compositions that enhance reactivity and, thus, the efficiency of the fiber forming process.

Contact for further information:
Dr. Timothy E. Long
540-231-2480
telong@vt.edu












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