The disclosed invention introduces a novel method of manufacturing carbon and/or graphite fibers that avoids the high costs associated with conventional carbonization processes. The method of the present invention avoids these costs by utilizing plasma technology in connection with electromagnetic radiation to produce carbon and/or graphite fibers from fully or partially stabilized carbon fiber precursors. In general, the stabilized or partially stabilized carbon fiber precursors are placed under slight tension, in an oxygen-free atmosphere, and carbonized using a plasma and electromagnetic radiation having a power input which is increased as the fibers become more carbonized and progress towards a final carbon or graphite product. In an additional step, the final carbon or graphite product may be surface treated with an oxygen-plasma treatment to enhance adhesion to matrix materials.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
The disclosed invention was made with Government support under contract DE-AC05-96OR22464, awarded by the United States Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation. The United States Government has certain rights to this invention.