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Once an exotic material, carbon fiber is closer to going mainline. It's high strength to weight ratio will improve the energy efficiency of cars and airplanes. Exciting technology but doubtful as an investment thesis. It's more likely to be enabling than disruptive technology.

Manufacturing advances bring carbon fiber closer to mass production
By John McElroy
Posted Nov 27th 2012 5:31PM

Automakers have dreamed of using carbon fiber in mass production for decades. But sky-high raw material prices and painfully slow manufacturing cycle times meant that dream was always more like a fantasy. Not anymore. Several recent advancements mean that carbon fiber could soon play an important role in the automotive industry.

Carbon fiber has been used in race cars, exotic sports cars and in automotive aftermarket parts for years. But now automakers believe they've identified the path of how to use it in mass production, and do so by the second half of this decade.

There's no one single breakthrough, but rather a combination of improvements that make this possible. And they're coming just in time for automakers who face the daunting task of boosting their average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon.

Denny Schlesinger
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As to investment opportunities, suppliers of carbon fiber are listed here--

Cytec, Hexcel, and Zoltek appears to be the major investment opportunities.
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SGL Carbon is in Wiesbaden, Germany, and is listed on European stock markets. It has no adr's in the US.

Toho Tenax is one of the automotive players working with GM, but it's a Japanaese company:

Toray Carbon Fibers claims to be the largest producer of carbon fibers--

Mitsubishi Rayon owns Grafil, which manufactures carbon fibers in Sacramento, CA.

Nippon Carbon Fiber is an affiliate of Nippon Steel and Nippon Oil of Japan. It specializes in carbon fiber derived from pitch.

In addition to carbon fiber the other part of a carbon composite is a resin, which come from a variety of suppliers. Unsaturated polyester resin is inexpensive, but epoxy is probably preferred for durability. Prepregs are often used. A non-tacky but reactive resin is applied to the fiber or woven fabric then cured (thermoset) by baking after shaping by various techniques.

The carbon fiber is often made by baking/sintering polyacrylonitrile (PAN), but other carbon sources can be used. PAN is best known to the consumer as the synthetic wool fibers sold as Acrylan or Orlon.
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See the new carbon composite article on Foolish Wiki--
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