Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond is partnering with carbon fiber manufacturing pioneer Connie Jackson and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to bring a potentially groundbreaking carbon fiber process to a number of global markets, including transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure.
According to LeMond Composites, the new company that has secured a licensing agreement with ORNL for the process, the new manufacturing process could yield high volume, low-cost carbon fiber. The company believes it could be “the most significant development in carbon fiber production in over 50 years.”
The process, invented by Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF), made news in March when ORNL announced publicly it was looking to license it. The process uses commercially-available, textile-grade acrylic fiber precursor materials. Acrylic fibers have a similar chemistry to specialty polyacrylonitrile (PAN), the commonly used carbon fiber precursor, but cost about half as much. The new process allows high-volume, cost-sensitive industries around the world to use carbon fiber composites at a much lower cost while incorporating chemistry that makes the materials recyclable.
LeMond believes that the affordability of this carbon fiber will lead to mass adoption worldwide. He adds that LeMond Composites is already in negotiations with several of the world’s leading automotive brands and their suppliers.
“We can provide the advantages of our carbon fiber to many industries by improving strength, stiffness, and weight reduction. If you imagine replacing steel, aluminum, and fiberglass with our carbon fiber, you begin to understand the scope of the potential market,” said Connie Jackson, CEO of LeMond Composites. “Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology.”
LeMond Composites will be strategically located in Knoxville, Tenn., in close proximity to the University of Tennessee, ORNL and IACMI-The Composites Institute.
”Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them,” said LeMond. “Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future.”