Beyond Glass Fiber
Carbon fibers and aramid fibers are lighter than glass fibers and, in many configurations, stiffer and stronger too. But they don’t come cheap. Today, glass fiber may cost between $1.50 and $2.50 per pound, while carbon fibers may run in the pricier $18 to $26 per pound range.
Carbon has found strong application in boatbuilding, where aramid (such as Kevlar by DuPont) has been largely withdrawn from the marine market. This is partially because aramid fiber does not adhere well to most resins. Also, it has great tensile strength in the direction of the fiber, but it suffers when loaded off-axis at most angles to the fiber, as well as in compression.
A new technology about to make it to market could drastically improve these problems. This newer technology bonds fibers into a flat configuration that maximizes strength as well as the amount of fiber per unit thickness (in other words, heavier amounts of fiber in a thinner product). This allows lower resin use and lighter-weight construction. For the boat buyer, this can mean a faster and/or more fuel-efficient boat.