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New LeMond company will offer carbon fiber to other industries

Published August 30, 2016
New company is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to offer low-cost, high-volume carbon fiber to transportation, energy and infrastructure industries.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (BRAIN) — Tour de France hero Greg LeMond is involved with a new company that is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to offer low-cost carbon fiber to several industries, including the transportation and renewable energy markets.

LeMond Composites has reached a licensing agreement with U.S. Department of Energy's ORNL. The agreement will make the Oak Ridge-based LeMond Composites the first company to offer this low-cost carbon to these markets.

In a press release announcing the new company, the use of carbon fiber in bicycle frames was not mentioned. Greg LeMond is chairman and co-CEO of LeMond Companies, which owns LeMond Composites, a spokesman said. According to the spokesman, LeMond learned about the ORNL technology while researching carbon fiber suppliers for bicycle products and "he quickly realized that this was much bigger than bicycles."

 "We can provide the advantages of our carbon fiber to many industries by improving strength, stiffness, and weight reduction. If you imagine replacing steel, aluminum, and fiberglass with our carbon fiber, you begin to understand the scope of the potential market," said Connie Jackson, the CEO of LeMond Composites. "Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology."

According to the press release, Jackson and a research team at ORNL's Carbon Fiber Technology Facility invented a new production process said to reduce production costs by more than 50 percent compared to the lowest cost industrial grade carbon fiber. The company said its new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much. Ther new manufacturing method reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60 percent.

Jackson and several of her ORNL colleagues joined LeMond Composites in 2016.

"We have assembled the only team in the world that has executed this proven technology which uniquely positions us to deliver a successful outcome for our customers and stakeholders," said Greg LeMond. "From experience, I know that having the right team is a distinct business advantage."

"We understand the growing demand from the automotive industry and we are currently in negotiations with several of the world's leading automotive brands and their suppliers," said LeMond.

Thom Mason, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said, "The development of this new process demonstrates the value of coupling basic and applied research, which is a hallmark of ORNL, and it underscores the Department of Energy's commitment to addressing our nation's most pressing energy challenges ... The Department's sustained investments in scientific research and development and in specialized facilities such as CFTF are enabling a variety of applications that will lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and position U.S. industry for global success."

ORNL's Carbon Fiber Technology Facility began operations in 2012, supported by the Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing and Vehicle Technologies offices, to demonstrate the possibility of low-cost carbon fiber at a semi-production scale.

Carbon fiber composites can also be used to build, reinforce, or repair bridges, tunnels, commercial and residential structures, the company said.

LeMond said, "As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber we believe that world-wide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee, a state that through Gov. Haslam and Commissioner Boyd's forward-thinking programs like Tennessee Promise, will provide a steady stream of quality employees for our company. Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them. Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future. On a personal note, the bike riding in this area is incredible."

LeMond Composites plans to expand its campus by building its first carbon fiber production line at their recently purchased facility at 103 Palladium Way in Oak Ridge. The facility is located immediately adjacent to ORNL's Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. The first commercially available product will be ready in the first quarter of 2018.


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