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S. Korea to invest $140mln to accelerate development for affordable carbon composite materials

By Park Sae-jin Posted : December 6, 2022, 16:36 Updated : December 6, 2022, 16:36

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- In a bid to nurture technological capabilities in manufacturing carbon-based materials and products at affordable prices, South Korea will invest 185 billion won ($140 million) by 2030 to accelerate the technological development of carbon composite materials.
 
A carbon composite is basically carbon and carbon fibers mixed with various polymers to be made into hard blocks and other shapes. The carbon-based material has more than 10 times higher strength compared to steel of the same weight, and such characteristics make the carbon composite ideal for the replacement of steel products in the fields of avionics, construction, and land vehicles.
 
However, the production of carbon fiber is a highly-specialized process with expensive manufacturing machinery. The end product carbon composite is also very expensive compared to steel and aluminum. According to market research firm Global Market Insights, the global market for carbon fiber composites is at its incubating stage, estimated to reach $30 billion by 2030, while the global iron and steel market is projected to reach $2,405 billion. A smaller market means smaller demands, which heavily affects the overall cost of mass-produced products.
 
On December 6, Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang hosted a strategic roundtable meeting with the aim of finding South Korea's growth engine in the era of the fourth industrial revolution and revealed a blueprint for South Korea to become a leader in the global carbon composite industry.
 
The trade ministry predicts that the global demand for carbon composites will increase in the world's defense and aerospace sectors and the market will reach up to 100 trillion won by 2030. South Korea will seek to use carbon composites in small-sized low-orbit satellites, small-sized projectiles, and urban aerial vehicles by establishing a lab-factory facility for the production and demonstration of prototypes.  
 
In order to prepare for an explosive demand and lower the production price of carbon fibers to $10 per kilogram from the current price of $20, South Korea will invest 185 billion won and acquire core technologies for super-high-strength carbon fibers. "As the strategic incubation of the domestic steel industry has become a solid foundation for South Korea's automotive and shipbuilding industries, it is important for the countries to localize carbon composite materials," Lee said.  

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