Oak Ridge, Tenn.-based LeMond Composites has entered into an exclusive, 20-year licensing agreement with Deakin University in Australia to enhance the production of carbon fiber, which LeMond believes is a key component of the future of efficient energy use.
Founded last year, LeMond manufacturers carbon fiber composites for applications including renewable energy (e.g., wind turbines), transportation and infrastructure. For the wind in particular, says LeMond, carbon fiber can be used to make turbine blades longer and stronger, increasing their efficiency.
According to the company, the immediate result of Deakin University’s licensed process is a low-cost carbon fiber product delivered in a standard format that is consistent with the requirements of today’s composite industry. This ensures quick adoption of LeMond’s carbon fiber, which will initially be commercially available as a manufactured product from the university’s Carbon Nexus facility. LeMond also plans to begin construction of a new commercial carbon fiber facility in Oak Ridge; construction will begin this year.
“Deakin University’s process oxidizes carbon fiber faster, with lower capital and energy costs and greater output of carbon fiber over a shorter period,” says Nicolas Wegener, chief operating officer of LeMond, who negotiated the $44 million deal. “The process requires 75 percent less energy and also reduces the amount of process equipment by 75 percent. These factors make the production of low-cost carbon fiber scalable at a velocity that can keep up with the market demand.”
“The ability to scale production, along with our low-cost carbon fiber, is what will allow LeMond Composites to deliver this material to the masses,” adds Greg LeMond, three-time Tour de France champion and CEO/founder of the company. “Deakin University’s manufacturing process will make it possible to localize manufacturing and make carbon fiber technology more accessible to a wider range of industries like transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure or any industry that benefits from using lighter, stronger, safer materials.”
The company says it is about to secure its first supply agreement with a commercial customer and will use the new process to manufacture and sell carbon fiber starting in September.
On a side note, in 1986, Greg LeMond was the first cyclist to win the Tour de France riding a carbon fiber bike. His interest in carbon fiber and developing innovative products led to LeMond’s entry into the carbon fiber manufacturing industry in August of last year, the company notes.