Driving the Future: Growth in the Large Tow Carbon Fiber Market

19 Jul 2023

Growth in the large tow carbon fiber market is being driven by growing demand from the renewable energy sector, stringent regulations, carbon emission policies, increasing awareness, and rising demand from developing countries. Large tow carbon fiber is commercial grade carbon fiber of more than 48,000 (48K) filaments, which meets the needs of general industrial applications. Demand for large tow carbon fiber is rapidly growing for industrial applications. Wind energy turbine blades are considered one of the main applications of large tow carbon fiber, which is growing across the world. Governments are taking initiatives for the development of policies and setting targets to increase renewable energy production and consumption. Global carbon dioxide emissions related to the energy sector increased to 36.3 billion tons. It was around year-on-year growth of 6% in the year 2021, as the world economy bounced back strongly from the COVID-19 crisis. Globally, regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emission and carbon neutrality targets are estimated to drive the growth of the carbon fiber composite industry. Large tow carbon fiber is considered the preferred material in renewable energy such as wind, photovoltaics, or hydrogen owing to its excellent strength and mechanical and lightweight properties. These properties enhance its use in aerospace and defense and automotive and transportation end-use applications, owing to the need for advanced lightweight materials to replace traditional heavy materials to lower fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions. Apart from these driving factors, some restraining factors are impacting the growth of the market, such as the high cost of production in comparison to conventional materials, complex manufacturing processes, and machining problems. Many research and development (R&D) activities are going on to lower the production cost and development of new recycling technologies to cater to the growing demand for large tow carbon fiber.

Large tow carbon fiber is being adopted by various end-user applications, including aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, sports, and others. Energy is the largest consumer of large tow carbon fiber globally due to the unique properties carbon tow fiber possesses, such as excellent strength and mechanical and lightweight properties. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the supply of electricity from renewable and clean energy sources needs to be doubled by 2030 to limit global temperature increase. Additionally, the raw materials required to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines are forecasted to be in short supply.  The automotive industry is one of the key industries in large tow carbon fiber consumption. Various companies in the automotive industry are focusing on research and development of innovative technologies to cater to changing sustainability requirements. There are various governments and companies that have set goals to achieve sustainability and are taking steps toward achieving set targets. Advanced materials such as large tow carbon fibers are projected to play a pivotal role in the growth of the fuel economy of modern automobiles without compromising safety and performance.

In this report, the main types of large tow carbon fiber have been considered, namely, 48K, 50K, 60K, and other large tow carbon fibers. Amongst these, 48K is the largest consumed product in the large tow carbon fiber market. At present, North America is the most prominent region utilizing large tow carbon fiber, followed by China. 48 K-based carbon fiber is one of the emerging product types that is progressively growing in the automotive, aerospace, sports, and appliances industries. Large tow carbon fiber reduces carbon footprints. Furthermore, unlike conventional materials, large tow carbon fiber is extensively used in reducing weight without compromising properties across the value chain.

The large tow carbon fiber market is expected to witness high growth during the forecast period 2022-2031. The demand for large tow carbon fiber is increasing owing to strict environmental regulations and net zero emission policies. Toray Industries, Inc., SGL Carbon, Teijin Limited, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Solvay, and China Petrochemical Corporation are some of the key players operating in the global large tow carbon fiber market. The following table presents an overview of the global large tow carbon fiber market, along with a summary of the different segmentations covered in this research study:

Energy to Dominate the Large Tow Carbon Fiber Market (by Application)

Among different large tow carbon fiber end-use applications, energy is expected to be the largest application during the forecast period 2022-2031. Large tow carbon fibers can be used in a wide range of applications in wind energy generation, including larger blades, parts of the flywheel, and rotors, among others. Carbon fiber plays a vital role in the solar energy market; it is used in many parts, including solar panel frames and supporting plates. Demand for renewable energy is increasing across the globe, which is estimated to drive the demand for large tow carbon fiber in the long-term forecast.

48K to Dominate the Large Tow Carbon Fiber Market (by Type)

48K is being highly adopted by end users, with the increasing demand for large tow carbon fibers. 48K carbon fiber shows an excellent quality performance of carbon fiber and has low production costs. The 48K carbon fiber meets the requirement of major industrial application areas and breaks the application limitations caused by the high-priced carbon fiber.

PAN-Based to Dominate the Large Tow Carbon Fiber Market (by Technology)

Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is one of the advanced raw materials for large tow carbon fiber production, and it is a key raw material used in the large-scale commercial production of large tow carbon fiber. Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is an expensive precursor and contributes a major share of the price of carbon fiber. Pitch, lignin, and rayon are considered important alternatives for manufacturing carbon fibers, but a lot of research and development needs to be done to improve the performance and cost efficiency of these materials to commercialize these carbon fibers.

North America to Dominate the Large Tow Carbon Fiber Market (by Region)

North America occupied the largest market share in 2021, and the region is expected to lead the market by 2031 as well. North America is one of the major producers and consumers of carbon fiber and leads the large tow carbon fiber market. China is the second largest region and is estimated to add major capacities for large tow carbon fiber manufacturers in the forecast period. The players, including China Petrochemical Corporation and Jilin Tangu Carbon Fiber Co., Ltd., are increasing large tow carbon fiber production in the region to cater to the increasing demand from various end-use industries. Stringent environmental regulations and targets for a net zero carbon economy by 2070 are also major factors behind the growth of the large tow carbon fiber market in the region.