Toho Tenax develops energy-saving microwave carbonization process

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  • World’s first application of microwave energy carbonization under atmospheric pressure
  • New surface treatment technology reduces energy consumption by 50%
  • Applications: from aerospace to automobiles

Toho Tenax Co., Ltd. has developed new technologies for microwave carbonization and plasma surface treatment, which are expected to reduce energy and CO2 emissions by up to 50% during production of automobiles, high-speed railcars and aircrafts through increased use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The company is now working to commercialize the technologies for mass production.

Microwave Carbonization: world’s first application of microwave energy carbonization under atmospheric pressure

Toho Tenax, using the world’s first application of microwave energy carbonization under atmospheric pressure, has achieved a tensile modulus of 240 GPa or greater and rupture elongation of 1.5% or greater, both equivalent to levels found in industrial products. The advanced carbonizing process was developed by examining the fiber- structure formation process when carbonizing a bundle of between 12,000 and 24,000 pieces of flame-resistant oxidized PAN fibers, and then developing the most appropriate microwave processing method to carbonize this fibrous material. Using direct heating with microwave energy, fibrous material is carbonized continuously without having to maintain a high-temperature oven, thereby saving time and energy.

New surface treatment technology reduces energy consumption by 50%

The company has also developed a carbon fiber ultra-fast plasma surface treatment technology using a dry process. The highly simplified process reduces energy consumption by 50% for the whole process, compared to the conventional carbon fiber production process. In addition, the ultra-fast treatment improves the adhesiveness of carbon fiber and matrix resin.

Applications: from aerospace to automobiles

Carbon fiber applications are expanding beyond aerospace into fields including automobiles, the environment, energy and infrastructure. However, the carbonizing process in the carbon fiber manufacturing process consumes large amounts of energy and produces CO2 emissions, so reductions in these areas are urgently required to facilitate large-scale mass production for automobiles and other applications.

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