Chasing Windmills

Unlike the legendary Don Quixote of old, who mistook windmills as oppressive giants, today's windmill enthusiasts consider them as friendly devices that generate electricity and are helping to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

The "giant" blades are made possible through the use of carbon – carbon composites which make the blades light weight and stronger than steel. Carbon fibers are increasingly being used daily in commercial aircraft (Airbus) and military aircraft (helicopters), aerospace (fuel tanks), sporting equipment (skis, golf clubs, tennis racquets), as well as automotive (brakes) and medical equipment.

For the last ten years, Rath has been providing high temperature insulating materials (Such as Altra® 72 fiber modules, Korrath® high alumina brick and KVS insulating boards) to furnace builders supplying carbon fiber producers world wide. Manufacturing carbon fiber requires temperatures in excess of 1300ºC, in the absence of air, with the generation of some chemically aggressive decomposition products during the carbonization process. Needless to say, the insulating materials must be of high purity, resistant to chemical attack, and have good thermal shrinkage properties to survive in this application.

Today there is a flurry of activity to ramp up the world's capacity of carbon fibers, much of which is currently being used for windmills. Rath is proud to be a part of this emerging market. Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's squire and friend, must be smiling somewhere, because he knew all along they were only windmills.

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