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 what’s dubbed the most significant development in carbon fiber production in over 50 years to global markets.
LeMond Composites, a new company offering solutions for high volume, low cost carbon fiber, has secured a licensing agreement with U.S. Department of Energy’s ORNL. The agreement will make Oak Ridge-based LeMond Composites the first company to offer this new industry-disrupting carbon fiber to the transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure markets. Jackson and several of her ORNL teammates joined LeMond Composites in 2016.
LeMond Composites plans to establish production capacity of 4000 tonnes annually. In terms of production equipment, LeMond Composites has a working relationship with RMX Technologies and is very interested in their plasma technology. “We have not completed our evaluation of their equipment for our process,” notes Jackson, CEO of LeMond Composites. “But, it is likely that we will incorporate the RMX technology as part of our equipment and development portfolio.” RMX previously licensed carbon fiber production technology from ORNL.
|L to R- Ed Western, ORNL; Nic Wegener, President LeMond Technologies; and Greg LeMond, Chairman and co-CEO of LeMond Companies and a composite part fabricated using the new low-cost carbon fiber; Photo credit, ORNL’s Jason Richards.|
“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,” adds Jackson. “Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology.”
Besides marketing the carbon fiber to other companies, LeMond will also manufacture some select composite components for bicycles, transportation and wind power applications as well as bike frames. Pultrusion will be one of the processes employed.
A breakthrough process invented by Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) will reduce production costs by more than 50% relative to the lowest cost industrial grade carbon fiber. This new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much. Until now, manufacturing carbon fiber was an extremely energy-intensive process. This new method reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60%.
“We have assembled the only team in the world that has executed this proven technology which uniquely positions us to deliver a successful outcome for our customers and stakeholders,” said Greg LeMond. “From experience, I know that having the right team is a distinct business advantage.”
The biggest obstacle to widespread use of carbon fiber has been its high cost. This new process will reportedly allow high volume, cost sensitive industries around the world to reap the benefits of carbon fiber composites at a fraction of the cost while incorporating chemistry geared toward recyclability.
“The development of this new process demonstrates the value of coupling basic and applied research, which is a hallmark of ORNL, and it underscores the Department of Energy’s commitment to addressing our