Carbon composite is a high tech plastic noted for its high strength and light weight. Also known as carbon fiber or graphite, the composite is formed by curing a fiber matrix with a resin, often an epoxy resin. Carbon composites are preferred in applications such as aircraft, but have been adapted to golf clubs and tennis rackets and are under development for automotive components.
The fiber is usually made by sintering polyacrylonitrile, but other carbon sources can be used. The carbon matrix may be supplied as single fiber or woven into a fabric. The fiber can be preimpregnated with a solid resin or a liquid resin can be applied as the fiber is wound around a form. Curing is usually finished by baking often under vacuum in an autoclave.
Carbon composite was invented in 1966 by W. Watt, L. N. Phillips and W. Johnson at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, England. Its use is best known in stealth aircraft but recently has been used in the latest generation of commercial aircraft.
Fiberglass composites, usually known to the consumer as "fiberglass" are an earlier form of composite. The addition of inert fillers to binders to reduce cost has been known for decades. The recognition that some inerts can enhance performance of the matrix is the key to some high performance materials.
In a sense, Portland cement concrete is a composite due to its aggregate. Closely related is polymer concrete, where a filler or aggregate is dispersed in a resin. Particle board, masonite or strandboard are similar in that wood fiber or particles are dispersed in a resin matrix.
Leading suppliers of carbon composites are thought to be--
Cytec Cytec is the world's second largest producer of carbon fiber products for composites used in aircraft.
Hexcel A specialist in composites of all types dating from 1946, specializing in products for military and aviation. Its early expertise in fiberglass and aluminum celled composites evolved to include carbon composites.
Zoltek Ticker: ZOLT. Small player specializing in low cost, commercial grade carbon made from textile grade fiber.  Zoltek was acquired by Toray Industries. In 2015, Zoltek announced plans to double production of its lower cost, large tow carbon fiber in Mexico. Large tow fiber is used in auto frames and wind turbines. Toray signed a 10-yr contract to supply carbon fiber to Boeing. It acquired a 400 acre site at Spartanburg, SC for additional carbon fiber production. Boeing will use Toray's carbon fiber products in the 787 Dreamliner and in the new 777X planes. Toray will build plants in South Carolina to make carbon fiber precursor, carbon fiber, and carbon prepregs.
SGL Carbon is in Wiesbaden, Germany, and is listed on European stock markets. It has no adr's in the US. A German company dating back to 1878 with Siemens carbon production, later merged with units of Hoechst and acquired Great Lakes Carbon. Listed on the NYSE in 1997; delisted 2007. Manufactures a full line including graphite electrodes and furnace linings as well as carbon fiber. 
Mitsubishi Rayon owns Grafil, which manufactures carbon fibers in Sacramento, CA.  In 2015, Mitsubishi Rayon announced plans to build a carbon fiber composites plant at Vilshofen, Germany. The plant will make sheet molding compound for the automotive market.
DowAksa In 2015, Ford Motor formed a jv with DowAksa, a jv between Dow Chemical and Aksa Akrilik of Istanbul to explore further use of carbon fiber composites in vehicles. Carbon fiber offers lighter strength (next after aluminum) but so far is too costly and difficult to process in the volumes needed for automotive applications. 
In 2015, Eastman Chemical announced Amphora branded thermoplastic media for 3D printing. They report working with 3D printing filament provider taulman 3D and desktop 3D printer developer Aleph Objects, Inc. Helian of Netherlands, owner of ColorFabb, a medium for the Stacker, low cost 3D printer is another user of Amphora. Carbon fiber composite 3D media is also available under the Amphora brand offering improved melt strength and dimensional stability.
Other Carbon Products
In addition to carbon composites, other forms of carbon are known. Buckyball or buckminsterfullerene is one of these. There is also Graphene and Nanotubes. These are the subject of research to develop unique uses. Graphite used in pencil leads and in electrodes for dry cell batteries and electric furnaces is another specialty.
Carbon black is a common additive for rubber formulations and a black pigment.
Activated carbon is used as an adsorbent to remove color bodies or other impurities in processing and in gas masks.
Related Fool Articles
- [LINK TITLE]
Related Fool Discussion Boards
Post your questions on Motley Fool's "Chemicals" discussion board.
Recent Mentions on Fool.com
- This Dow Dividend Stock Has Everything You Want
- Can Cyber Monday Save SodaStream and Keurig Kold?
- Keurig Kold Is a Hard Sell Even at $199.99
- Japan Proves the Uranium Demand Growth Story Has Legs
- Metal 3D Printer Start-Up Gains Stratasys' Backing
- The Coca-Cola Co. Tries a Slimming Formula
- Everything You Need to Know About Google's New Hardware
- Is Tesla Motors, Inc. Stock Headed to $365?
- 3D Printing Stocks: An Interview With ExOne Co. (XONE)
- How ExOne Co.'s Technology Is Different From the Competition's
- ExOne Co. Crashes 74% in 2014: Is it Time to Buy?
- 5 Key Insights From ExOne Co's (XONE) Earnings Call
- Prospectus Price-to-Earnings Ratio
- Don't Buy a TV on Black Friday
- Why Publishers Are Seeing Less Traffic From Facebook This Year
- The 2017 Buick LaCrosse: General Motors' Big Buick Gets a Big Overhaul
- Intel Corp.?s 14-Nanometer Technology Is Great, but Yields Still Proving Challenging
- Just What Fifth Street Needs -- an Activist