Carbon Fiber Shortage Drives Up Prices

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The demand for airliners (particularly lightweight, fuel-efficient ones) is causing a supply crunch of a different kind. Carbon fiber, the matrix that gives composite material its outsized strength, has quadrupled in price to $20 a pound because of Boeing’s and Airbus’s increased use of it in aircraft. "Boeing and Airbus are scarfing up what's available," Mike Musselman, editor of High Performance Composites magazine, told USA Today. "The rest of the folks get what's left." Most of the airframe on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner is composite, and composite components have long been used on Airbus aircraft. Carbon fiber producers are responding by increasing production and prices. Zoltek spokesman Kevin Scholt said his company has tripled production in the past year. "We've been able to raise prices significantly in a two-year time frame," he said. The shortage is hitting a wide spectrum of products that also benefit from the material’s light weight and high strength, including the auto industry and sporting goods manufacturers making everything from hockey sticks to bicycles.