Carbon fiber fabric and its potential for use in objects conservation

Carolyn Riccardelli


Carbon fiber fabric is a high-performance woven cloth made from carbon filament. It is widely known for its applications in the aerospace, auto, marine, and sporting equipment industries. While high-strength carbon fibers became commercially available in the 1960s and more broadly obtainable for consumer use in the 1990s, we have yet to see this versatile material reach its full potential within the field of objects conservation. Carbon fiber fabric is designed to be used in concert with a resin system to create rigid parts that have a modulus of elasticity comparable to steel. These polymer-reinforced carbon composites are fabricated from layers of carbon fiber cloth laminated together with epoxy. One notable benefit to the conservator is that, while laying up the fabric and resin, the material can be made to conform to almost any shape. The cured composite can be quite thin and is as strong as steel but a fraction of the weight. Carbon fiber composites are ideally suited to applications in which strength, stiffness, lower weight, and outstanding fatigue characteristics are critical requirements, making them particularly well suited for fabricating object supports and mounts. This paper will introduce carbon fiber fabric as a strong, lightweight material that has the potential to replace steel or brass in many conservation mounting applications and will explore ways that carbon fiber fabric has been used in the Department of Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also included is an overview of the material’s history and manufacture. Details on how to choose materials and methods for working with carbon fiber fabric are featured.

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2017 | Chicago | Volume 24