ORNL opens nations first carbon fiber research facility

ORNL opens nation's first carbon fiber manufacturing research facility

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The $35 million facility provides clean energy companies and researchers with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes. The $35 million facility provides clean energy companies and researchers with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes.
Gov. Bill Haslam, Lab Director Thom Mason, Rep. Chuck Fleishmann and others celebrate the facility's opening. Gov. Bill Haslam, Lab Director Thom Mason, Rep. Chuck Fleishmann and others celebrate the facility's opening.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

OAK RIDGE (WATE) - Oak Ridge National Laboratory opened a new carbon fiber technology research testing facility Tuesday.

It's part of a clean energy manufacturing initiative and President Obama's effort to revitalize the nation's manufacturing sector.

On Tuesday, officials from the Energy Department, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Ford Motor Company, and Dow Chemical launched the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.

Now open to U.S. manufacturers, the $35 million facility provides clean energy companies and researchers with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes.  

"This is tremendous to have a facility like this in the third district of Tennessee. This is going to allow America to lead and to have a competitive advantage," said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

In an effort to help the U.S. become a global leader in clean manufacturing technology, energy officials believe the new carbon fiber technology facility will be a game changer.  

The facility features a 390-foot-long melt-spun fiber line, providing a test bed of strong and light- weight fiber materials.  

These processes can then be transferred to private industry, which can manufacture and develop the product at a cheaper cost, experts say.

"You see it in products like the Stealth bombers, bicycles, high-end golf clubs. It's high performance, but high cost. In order to really impact the marketplace in a significant way, that cost has to come down," said ORNL Director Thom Mason. 

The facility has attracted more than 40 private and public partners which include automotive manufacturers like Ford and Volkswagen.  

Gov. Bill Haslam was on-hand to tour the facility; he says the lab is important to the state's economy, since auto manufacturers based here could tap into the facility's capabilities.  

"If that can happen in Tennessee, that can help us as we compete to make sure even more automobile manufactures are here, add their weight, whether it'd be Nissan, Volkswagen, or GM who are already here," Haslam said.  

The 42,000 sq. ft. facility is supported by a $35 million energy department grant.  

"We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of new stones. We created new materials, and that's what we're doing here. We're creating a future," said Deborah Wince-Smith, president & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness.    

There is a staff of 25 employees working in the facility, including 19 technicians currently in an internship program through a university consortium known as the Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

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