The National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center on Tuesday said it has helped textile maker Far Eastern New Century Corp develop aramid fibers, a class of heat-resistant and high-performance fibers, which are stronger than steel and could be a boon for the development of the nation’s defense and aerospace industry.
Aramid fiber, first developed by US firm DuPont, is five times stronger than steel, but with only one-fifth of the intensity of steel, center associate researcher Chuang Wei-tsung (莊偉綜) told a news conference in Taipei.
Annual global production of aramid fiber is about 100,000 tonnes, with the US and Japan accounting for 90 percent of the output, he said.
To help Taiwan break into this promising market, the Ministry of Science and Technology affiliate four years ago started working with Far Eastern New Century to develop the material, he said.
The center set up a mini wet-spinning machine at an end station of its Taiwan Photon Source facility, whose high-brightness X- rays allow producers to observe the fiber’s microstructural formation, including the degree of orientation and crystallinity, and make corresponding adjustments of its spinning parameters, he said.
Without the facility, producers would have to rely on end products for testing and analysis, and would be unable to clarify the effects of each procedure on the physical characteristics of the fiber, he added.
The company’s aramid fiber quality is comparable to that produced by DuPont, but is 20 percent more cost-efficient as it recycles some organic solvents and trimmed-off fibers during the production process, he said.
Aramid fibers, which are lightweight, strong and resistant to corrosion, can replace traditional heavy metals in producing tires, vehicle bodies, light aircraft and submarine cables, he said.
However, the company needs more time before it can start mass production, he added.
Taiwan Photon Source also helps semiconductor, biomedicine and 5G developers enhance their grasp over the microstructures of their products, Chuang said, adding that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co is its biggest client.
The center charges companies for using its facilities, but offers free service to academic researchers, Chuang said.
Taiwan Photon Source was developed at a cost of more than NT$7 billion (US$241.7 million), the center said.
Its first seven beam lines started operating in 2016, it said.
A second batch of nine beam lines will all be open by next year, and construction of the last nine beam lines is expected to be completed by 2027, it said.
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