Shown to have immense durability and having been given an undoubtedly promising future, carbon fiber could be implemented in multiple materials and objects, one of which is acting as a strengthener in skis. Skis, like any other object, loses durability after time, with the core easily breaking down. Weak materials allow the ski to lose its optimal strength quickly, making it not as responsive. Once the skis begin to degrade, they also lose grip on the snow, discomfort consuming the user. With time, the edges of the skis also become much thinner and rounder, losing its capability of providing a smooth ride. Ski boots, at its peak, are able to keep the rider’s foot intact as well as protecting the rider with its soft padding. However, the foam padding could begin to flatten, not having the ability to protect anything. In the worse case scenario, the boot could come off during a ride.
Constantly looking to improve, ski developers continue to improve the quality of their products by trying to find very durable materials that are also lightweight and comfortable for the riders to use. Carbon fiber is an optimal choice, with companies already beginning to implement the composite in their products in order to advance in the world that is now consumed by technology.
Carbon fiber is a lightweight yet strong and sturdy material made of carbon crystals that are aligned in a long axis. The crystals, in a honeycomb shape, are organized into flattened ribbons that are sorted within fibers. These ribbons fold themselves on top of each other, gaining its strength from its unorderly stacking. The fibers are then woven into thicker fibers which can then be turned into carbon cloth, felt, chopped strands and even powder. The material is rarely used by itself, but rather often used as reinforcement, combining it with some other material. The most common form of the carbon fiber composite includes long, continues strands of the fibers itself with resin acting as a matrix in between each fiber. Carbon fiber can be modified by adding materials such as glass fibers, kevlar, aluminum, etc. In a sense, carbon fiber is more often used to strengthen material than as the main material itself.
Despite being thinner than a human hair, it is able to obtain its strength by twisting it together, as if it were yarn. Aside from its strength, it is also very rigid and lightweight. Its stiffness is measured by the Young Modulus scale, shown to be about 2.5 times more rigid than aluminum, and over 4 times more rigid than glass reinforced plastic. This allows for a low weight to strength ratio, unlike other materials that are strong depending on a relatively high weight. Its strength, measured by dividing the force per unit area at failure divided by its density, is 2457 kN.m/kg. Carbon fiber also has a high tensile strength, meaning it was able to sustain itself for a long period of time when it is stretched. Tensile strength is measured by pulling a material until its breaking point or until it changes shape. Carbon fiber has a tensile strength of 4127 MPa. Not to mention, carbon fiber has a high heat-resistance, being able to withstand extreme temperatures. Its tolerance allows it to be resistant to thermal expansion as well, which refers to a material changing shape, volume, or any certain property in response to changes in temperature.
how is carbon fiber created?
Carbon fiber is created with the heating of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) to the point where the hydrogen and nitrogen are released. PAN is a polymer resin taken from acrylonitrile, a member of the acrylic resins. Acrylonitrile is the product of a chemical reaction between propylene and ammonia, with oxygen and catalysts. Acrylonitrile has the chemical formula of (CH2=CHCN). The polymer is then taken and heated, causing the carbon atoms to lose the hydrogen atoms attached to them. The heat slowly rises to about 400-600C, which causes individual chains to join together, removing any hydrogen gas. Then, it is further heated to 1300C, causing the ribbons to join and create larger ones. As they form, nitrogen begins to slip apart, leaving pure carbon. It could be argued that the chemical formula for carbon fiber is just C, considering that carbon fiber is created of pure carbon atoms.
The carbon fiber sheets themselves act as a reinforcement, strengthening other materials that act as matrixes. This carbon fiber could then be turned into a composite by adding a plastic polymer resin through either heat, pressure, or in a vacuum. The tightly woven strands usually use epoxy, polyurethane, vinyl ester and polyester. Once fused with the plastic, it becomes Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composites, or CFRP for short. Thermoplastics could also be used, using the name Carbon Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastics Composites (CFRTP) instead.