Plasma Oxidation Oven for Rapid, Low Energy Polymer Oxidation

Organization: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Co-Developer(s): RMX Technologies, L.L.C. (RMX)
Year: 2016

The Plasma Oxidation Oven for Rapid, Low-Energy Polymer Oxidation is part of the carbon fiber manufacturing process, which has two main stages. First is the manufacture of the precursor, which is most commonly polyacrylonitrile, itself derived from oil. Second is the conversion of this precursor into carbon fiber, which involves this technology. The total manufacturing cost of carbon fiber is split near evenly between these two main stages. The conversion stage consists of three major steps: oxidation, carbonization, and surface treatment. Conventional oxidation ovens are the size of small houses, making them difficult and expensive to operate and maintain. The product is used to oxidize carbon fiber precursors and oxidize polyacrylonitrile fibers for the production of flame-retardant fabric, reducing the oxidation time from more than 90 minutes to less than 30 minutes while greatly reducing the energy needed to oxidize the fibers.