When Salt Lake City’s Rock West Composites sells carbon fiber materials to a new customer, they might not know what the materials will be used for. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because designers keep coming up with new and innovative uses for carbon fiber. From sporting goods to consumer electronics, carbon fiber is fast becoming a preferred material.
For the record, carbon fiber itself is not a finished product. What we typically call carbon fiber is really a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) manufactured by combining a carbon fiber fabric with an epoxy resin and then curing it to create a single-piece material.
One of the newest products on the consumer market is a carbon fiber charger. New Atlas contributor CC Weiss recently profiled one such charger from Nitecore, a company well known among trail runners for their headlamps and GPS devices. Their new carbon fiber charger is a big step forward in keeping electronics charged while running.
Limited Storage Space
By its nature, trail running doesn’t allow for a lot of extemporaneous storage space built into clothing. Runners typically have just one or two pockets to work with. Even if they had more pockets though, they wouldn’t want to weigh themselves down by needlessly heavy electronics. Thus, a heavy battery pack just isn’t going to cut it.
Trail runners want lightweight, compact electronics that fit nicely into their limited storage space. They also need these electronics to be able to withstand the punishment of runs that can be up to 100 miles long. Enter carbon fiber as a worthy manufacturing material.
Nitecore’s new carbon fiber charger is essentially a powerful lithium-polymer battery encased in a carbon fiber box. Both battery and box are thin and lightweight. The charger can power your typical smartphone along with any of Nitecore’s electronics.
All the Right Characteristics
The engineers at Rock West Composites say that carbon fiber has all of the right characteristics you would expect in a high-performance charger preferred by trail runners. First and foremost is strength. The last thing you want, as a trail runner, is for your electronics to fail because of the constant shock imposed on them by running. Carbon fiber holds up very well; shock and impact are not a big deal.
Next up is weight. As you probably know, carbon fiber reinforced plastics are very light in comparison to their strength and rigidity. A lightweight charger meets the trail runner’s need to keep electronics charged without requiring him/her to carry a heavy battery pack.
Finally, carbon fiber is not subject to moisture. It doesn’t corrode if it gets wet. It doesn’t contract and expand due to humidity levels. And by the way, fluctuating temperatures do not bother it either. A trail runner can stick the charger in his/her pocket and not worry about rain, snow, or even perspiration.
Power in the Batteries
It goes without saying that the real power behind the carbon fiber charger is literally the battery. According to Weiss, this particular charger features a lithium-polymer battery capable of fully recharging an iPhone 11 three times. It can supply enough power to run a headlamp, GPS, or other electronic device for days.
The capabilities of lithium-polymer batteries are pretty incredible. Imagine how much more power you could have at your disposal if you turned the carbon fiber case into an additional reservoir of power storage. Scientists are already studying how it can be done.
In the meantime, designers keep coming up with new and more exciting ways to utilize carbon fiber. We consumers are the beneficiaries.