Indian Carbon Society expert discusses the potential for carbon fiber in India

Q. Please give a brief description of your background in composites?

India has been having very ambitious programs like a) Development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. b) Light Combat Aircraft. c) Advanced Light Helicopter besides High temperature Nuclear Reactor etc etc.

Success of all such projects depends on the availability of a wide variety of Carbon/Carbon Composites meeting specific requirements like a) ablative, b) structural, c) braking, d) thermal shock resistance etc etc.

All aspects of carbon/carbon technology were developed and as a result of all this, India has developed a variety of ICBMS as well as Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).C/C brake pads for this fighter aircraft are being manufactured in the country only.

All developmental work for above was spear headed by me. Much of it was not published.

Q. Your presentation will focus on the Indian carbon fiber industry – why is this such an important area for the global industry to know more about?

India is a real potential place for use and growth of carbon fibre industry. Even though there is a potential, use has been limited because of the commercial non availability of carbon fibres locally. Defense and Aerospace sectors have been largest users of carbon fibres so far.

 However, they are now going from R&D phase to commercial production phase.

In the civilian sectors; a) India is poised to produce ~50,000 MW of Wind Energy by 2018. Hence will require additional 4000-5000 MTS of carbon fibres, b) India is one of the seven main countries of the world with Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV). As of now, number of such vehicles is only ~ 1.6 million ( This number is only 4% of the total vehicles) and is poised to grow. Conversion of only 10% of CNG steel cylinders to CFRP cylinders per annum will generate additional demand of ~1000 MT/year.

It is pertinent for the International Carbon Fibre Community to take note of the above mentioned facts. It is a ripe place to set up a manufacturing unit of a suitable capacity, keeping in mind that world class scientific manpower (in the area of carbon fibres) is available locally.

The above described facts also cover answer to the following question as well

Q. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing the CFRP industry?

 As always, cost of CFRP is the challenge. I think, this challenge is both from within as well as from competing materials-mostly metals and alloys. Reducing cost of carbon fibres is a challenge from within. As we all know ,in case of PAN based carbon fibres, costing of carbon roughly runs as;

Precursor   ~50%

Stabilization and carbonization ~37% plus others.

It seems little is possible to do in case of PAN precursor cost. However, working recently with a company, I have achieved completing carbonization process in a span of about five minutes only - thus saving gas, energy and time.

Q. In what new directions do you see the carbon fiber industry going in the next 10-20 years?

INDUSTRIAL SECTOR WILL DOMINATE NEXT DECADE OR SO.

a)  As of today, there are 1 billion vehicles on the PLANET. This number is expected to grow to 2 billion by 2030 and 3 billion by 2050. Most of the increase in the number of vehicles is happening in the BRIC countries. At the same time, we have to take note of the fact that at the present rate of consumption, the use of PETROLEUM by vehicles will rise from 51% to >60% of the total petroleum production. THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE . The only way, mankind can afford to have more vehicles is by using CFRP for Automobiles – making them lighter and thus reducing the Fuel consumption.

India is the 4th largest economy of the world with a very robust Automobile manufacturing hub.

b) Another large user of carbon fibres will be WIND POWER

Both of these areas, which are expected to drive the use of carbon fibres in the coming decade, will make use of HEAVY TOW.

It therefore makes sense to predict that future expansion of  carbon fibre production will take place in heavy tow.

Q. Outside of your own work, are there any other new programmes you have seen recently that have caught your interest?

Out of the total energy consumption (in the world), 30% is consumed by Transport alone ie by cars, trucks, buses etc. And out of the total Transport Consumption, ~ 75% is consumed by Cars and Trucks alone.

So far, Liquid Fuel seems irreplaceable in Transport sector since,

a) Gasoline contains 60-300 times more energy than electric Batteries per unit mass

b) and easy to store, transport, handle etc.

However, the negative effects of liquid fuel are so over weighing that 

THE TRANSPORT WITH LIQUID FUEL IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.

This status quo is being challenged by none other than LIB (Lithium Ion Battery)

Additionally, because of superior performing characteristics, LIB has a share of about 40% out of the total market of all batteries put together.

It is well appreciated that all new products/ Materials are essentially developed for their high end applications to start with ( Carbon Fibre is a good example ). However, the Material or the Product will become a commercial success/reality only and only if mass scale applications are realized.

LIB market is slated to grow exponentially from 2015 mainly because of its use in Automobile sector. Within the automobile sector, the light vehicles ie Cars and Light Commercial Vehicles will dominate. Eventually, China and Europe are expected to dominate the market by the year 2020, thus snatching the lead from Japan.

LIB business has been recognized as a strategic industry, so much so that American Administration has awarded > $2.5 billion for addressing this area and to remain relevant in view of the threats from Europe and China.

 Q. Finally, we are very pleased to have you on board for the conference this year, what are you hoping to gain most from this event?

Sharing of knowledge and interaction with other delegates from around the world will hopefully be stimulating and useful in building and extending professional networks which in turn should help in exploring possibilities of collaboration in projects of mutual interest.