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Old 04-07-2015, 11:35   #1
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Is current carbon tech safe?

I was reading the interesting thread on the history of fiberglass boats and one of the posters mentioned that some boat builders are experimenting with making carbon hulls. These carbon hull experiments are being geared for racing sail boats apparently because of the higher material costs.

This got my mind thinking about the use of carbon on boats per se. Whether for use in masts or now hulls I understand the thought process in using this material. Light weight and strong in comparison to other materials. But there is a big BUT.

My concern is with my knowledge of the various types of carbon structure not all structures are born equal. To give an example of my concern I will use to illustrate the property differences between a diamond and a carbon pencil lead. Both are carbon based but differ tremendously in strength and fragility.

Now talking about carbon structures used in boat materials I have an unease about the brittleness of the material being used. This concern is heightened with the large number of carbon mast dismastings particularly on racing hulls. Even this years Gun Boat dismasting involved a carbon mast.

Now I am not saying that the use of carbon materials should be avoided but what I am raising is the concern that a great deal of more research needs to be done regarding the kind of carbon material and its physical structure before my disquiet is relieved.

Having done research in the field of nano carbons with a particular emphasis on nanotubes and graphene I am acutely aware of a huge variances in the underlying structural strengths of various carbon structures.

Apart from strength variations one of my biggest concerns is inherent brittleness. Kind of like thinking of a carbon mast like being one large lead pencil. I know this is an extreme characterization but I use it to illustrate a point.

Now I am not dismissing carbon as a strong lightweight material. After all if you can combine high strength with lightweight material that IS NOT possessing a high rate of brittleness you will have a wonderful boat building material. I just think a great deal of more material research and development needs to be undertaken before I for one will take the risk with what is being used today.

Here is something from a researcher on carbon materials.

"Graphite is a form of carbon. The carbon fibers are not homogeneous and contain a percentage of amorphous carbon and another percentage of graphite, depending of the process used. If the process used a precursor PAN (polyacrylnitril), and if the temperature is higher than 2500C, the graphite increased.
The graphite fibers present a higher Young's modulus, but a lower strain at rupture, they are more brittle."

If you have a carbon mast do you have concerns? If you don't would you buy one or a sailboat with one? Are Yu at peace with the level of research into the sailing use of carbon materials on boats?

I could be the only materials nerd on here but given the high level of intelligent contributors on other subjects I some how don't think so.
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Old 04-07-2015, 13:29   #2
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

But isn't carbon a durdy pollutant. That's what people keep telling me
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Old 04-07-2015, 13:56   #3
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

Carbon is only dirty if you don't pay Al Gore your carbon tax. Pay the carbon tax and the little green fairy waves her magic wand and turns it into renewable energy. Funny how paying a tax with a green back can make other things green. What an amazing world we live in.
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Old 04-07-2015, 14:41   #4
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

So my plan to build my next boat from pencil leads is flawed?
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Old 04-07-2015, 16:08   #5
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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So my plan to build my next boat from pencil leads is flawed?
Wooden pencils float well. With or without leads. Intact you could tie two together with some kind of spacer and you will have Avery seaworthy Multihull
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Old 04-07-2015, 16:14   #6
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

If you aren't comfortable with the level of research into carbon in sailboats you also better not fly anywhere. High end sailing applications and Boeing use the same suppliers, same lot numbers, and same engineering data. Heck the Americas cup cats even used the same production facilities and workers... There just aren't that many ovens large enoug, and with the thermal control needed (+\- .25 degrees) to properly bake a 100' long mast, or hull, or airplane wing.

In reality no, there is no real concern. So long as you stay away from the extreme end of the engineering range carbon is perfectly safe. And if you push the edge... Well you push the edge and need to be prepared to beak stuff along the way.
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Old 04-07-2015, 16:15   #7
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

talk with bob perry about carbon fibre boat hulls.. he makin a gorgeus cruiser now.
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Old 04-07-2015, 16:40   #8
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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talk with bob perry about carbon fibre boat hulls.. he makin a gorgeus cruiser now.
I think Hinkley is doing the same.

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Old 04-07-2015, 16:41   #9
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

You need to pick a side of the equator. This sideways avatar thing isn't working for me.

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Old 04-07-2015, 16:42   #10
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

All jokes aside. I really would like to know the actual composition of the carbon formula being used by the mast makers. As I noted before carbon has in intrinsic brittleness so I would like to understand what has been done to compensate or overcome this. Not being assured on this issue would steer me away from purchasing a boat with a carbon mast. Just because something is fashionable doesn't mean it its the best.
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Old 04-07-2015, 16:48   #11
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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I really would like to know the actual composition of the carbon formula being used by the mast makers.
I doubt you will ever get this. Better chance at KFC's 11 herbs and spices.

On the other hand, the "composition" is pretty easy because there are only a limited number of carbon manufacturers supplying the marine industry. The actual process details in building a mast may be more of a secret.

However, I think you are worried too much about carbon masts. They have been in use for many years without real problems. You seem to focus on carbon masts lost, while not accounting for aluminum and wood masts lost.

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Old 04-07-2015, 17:15   #12
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

Fwiw, a performance boat racing class on SF Bay was losing there aluminum masts on a regular basis due to failure of the aluminum extrusion. They switched to carbon fiber extrusions and cured the dismasting problem.

Carbon fiber masts and hulls are almost exclusively found on boats that are pushing performance limits of light weight construction. The material is relatively new and they are still discovering how light they can build with it. Would be willing to bet that some of the failures are part of the learning process. Another thing is what's causing the loss of the masts. Is it the extrusion or the supporting structure that is giving way. Almost any mast will fail if you lose a shroud or stay for whatever reason. There have also been a number of boats built with unstayed carbon masts. If these masts were built of conventional materials, their weight would make them unsatisfactory. Haven't heard of any problems with these light sticks.

Carbon on seems to work just fine if designed with a reasonable extra strength margin. Boeing and AirBus seem to think carbon is strong enough as they have been using it in major components for years to save weight. Their latest designs are in fact mostly carbon like the 787.
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Old 04-07-2015, 17:29   #13
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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You need to pick a side of the equator. This sideways avatar thing isn't working for me.

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I think I posted the avatar when I was on a monohull.
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Old 04-07-2015, 17:30   #14
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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Carbon fiber masts and hulls are almost exclusively found on boats that are pushing performance limits of light weight construction.
Hulls yes, masts not so much. Carbon masts have been used in many traditional cruising boats. Sometimes to give a bit of an edge like Catana, other times to give a free-standing spar like Freedom (1980's!).

Even hulls are becoming more common now, but it still is in the realm of performance and weight limits there.

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Old 04-07-2015, 17:37   #15
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Re: Is current carbon tech safe?

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I doubt you will ever get this. Better chance at KFC's 11 herbs and spices.

On the other hand, the "composition" is pretty easy because there are only a limited number of carbon manufacturers supplying the marine industry. The actual process details in building a mast may be more of a secret.

However, I think you are worried too much about carbon masts. They have been in use for many years without real problems. You seem to focus on carbon masts lost, while not accounting for aluminum and wood masts lost.

Mark
Good point colemj. Nonetheless it would be reassuring to understand the makeup of the carbon being used. As another poster said it is what is being used by Boing so this is giving me a high level of comfort. But does an aircraft wing receive the same level of direct force that a mast can encounter. Too bad there isn't a wind type tunnel to experiment and test different masts and setup configurations. Examine, understand and test is the scientific way. and then share your scientific observations with the broader world so as to contribute to further discovery.
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