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Former Tour de France winner Greg LeMond’s namesake carbon fiber company boasted Monday it’d “bring the most significant development in carbon fiber production in over 50 years to the global markets” in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
LeMond won the Tour de France three times in the pre-doping era and is synonymous with cycling, but his company implied an automotive market for the breakthrough described Monday by the LeMond Composites news release.
“We understand the growing demand from the automotive industry and we are currently in negotiations with several of the world’s leading automotive brands and their suppliers,” LeMond said in a statement.
The company expected its first product would go on sale in the first quarter of 2018.
“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,” LeMond Composites CEO Connie Jackson said in a statement. “Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology.”
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Jackson and other researchers at Oak Ridge figured out a method for cutting the production cost of the cheapest industrial-grade carbon fiber by 50 percent.
“Incredibly this new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much,” LeMond Composites wrote. “Until now, manufacturing carbon fiber was an extremely energy-intensive process. This new method reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60%.”
“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 nation’s most pressing energy challenges,” Oak Ridge Director Thom Mason said in a statement. “The Department’s sustained investments in scientific research and development and in specialized facilities such as CFTF are enabling a variety of applications that will lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and position U.S. industry for global success.”
The company suggested wind energy, construction, aerospace and marine industries could all benefit from its carbon fiber.
“As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber we believe that world-wide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee, a state that through Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd’s forward-thinking programs like Tennessee Promise, will provide a steady stream of quality employees for our company,” LeMond said in a statement. ”Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them.”
LeMond Composites, Aug. 29, 2016
Featured image: Cycling legend Greg LeMond, right, is pictured next to a carbon-fiber component at an unspecified location, likely Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Provided by LeMond Composites)