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What can Carbon Fiber do for you?

What can Carbon Fiber do for you?

Chances are, the next time you are onboard a new Airbus or Boeing aircraft, more than 50 percent of the plane's body will consist of a single material–Carbon fiber. 
The material, which has an extremely high strength–to–weight ratio is seen most commonly as CFRP's (Carbon-fiber-reinforced-polymers). It is already charging ahead as the material of choice in several industries–aerospace, automotive and civil engineering, even sports goods manufacturing. 

My first encounter with Carbon fiber in a design context was "Black Star". Perched on an outdoor terrace at the Whitney Museum in New York, over 18 feet tall, "Black Star" is an installation and piece of art that obviates its surroundings entirely. It stands alone; it's black vertices and faces alternately reflective and matte in texture. 
The immediate impression is one of immense strength. And yet, were you to watch the video of its assembly (at the end of this article), you would sense the absolute weightlessness of its many molded Carbon fiber pieces. 

A question now arises: Beyond niche art like "Black Star", where do Carbon fiber, and it's polymers belong in Architecture and design today?

 " Black Star" by Artist Frank Stella, Carbon Fiber, 2014 @ The Whitney Museum, New York

" Black Star" by Artist Frank Stella, Carbon Fiber, 2014 @ The Whitney Museum, New York

One the one hand, the architectural and engineering world is christening Carbon fiber as the material that will replace Steel someday. The way Steel replaced Iron. The way Iron replaced Bronze. On the other hand, there are only a handful of buildings and pavilions that are employing Carbon fiber, and in ways unique to it as a material.

With an eye to the future, our agenda today will be to draw from those current examples of Carbon fiber in Architecture; To call out those stellar applications that architects and other designers are capitalizing on, and make them a resource for you.

  • Lightweight: The Biomimicry way

Teams from the University of Stuttgart were among the first to experiment with Carbon fiber for pavilion design. Using robot-fabricated, double-layered modular structures made of wound carbon-fiber, they have managed to capture the structural abilities of certain forms in nature; Like the shell of a beetle or lobster, and the shape of a sea urchin. Formwork needed in these structures is the bare minimum. The result is a construction that spans large volumes but weighs a minuscule amount.

  • Earthquake Tolerance

Architect Kengo Kuma recently used Carbon fiber to tether an entire building to the ground. The textile showroom in Japan is wrapped in a cloud of Carbon-fiber-composite rods. The thin, thread-like rods, are seven times stronger than steel, and protect the building from earthquake impact, which is imminent in Japan.

  • Mile high elevators= Mile high buildings: Carbon fiber elevator rope

It's hard to imagine elevators being a limitation to the height of skyscrapers, but elevator rope strength, durability, and maximum possible length have done just that for many years. Till now. 
KONE UltraRope is a new Carbon-fiber-core elevator rope. It can rise a kilometer, twice of what was possible before.
This innovation will enable skyscrapers to rise to heights they never could before.

The ways in which Carbon fiber will impact design and architecture, we hope, will be growing tally. In the meantime, we are tracing its applications and qualifications as they stand today.

Enjoy seeing the installation of " Black Star" in the video below.

Talking 'Process' with Sculptor David Umemoto

Talking 'Process' with Sculptor David Umemoto

Between Sculpture and Architecture: Narrative in Concrete by David Umemoto

Between Sculpture and Architecture: Narrative in Concrete by David Umemoto