Pitch-based Carbon Fiber Precursor Development and Conversion

National Laboratory: 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Characterization Class: 
Non-destructive examination
Processing/Manufacturing Class: 
Fabrication and synthesis
Shaping and forming
Thermo-mechanical processing

ORNL has multiple pieces of equipment that can be used for processing and producing mesophase pitches. The carbon and composites group has multiple vacuum furnaces, atmospheric furnaces, and processing equipment for heat-treating precursors and monomers into pitches and mesophase. In addition, the group possesses a high-temperature, high-pressure press (HIP) for processing these materials at pressures up to 1500 psi and temperatures up to 1000°C under inert or vacuum conditions. The group also has a high-temperature graphitization furnace that can process carbons up to 2800°C under argon purge. In addition, ORNL offers multiple microscopes for optical image characterization, as well as the high-temperatures materials laboratory for scanning electron and transmission electron microscopies, known as SEM and TEM, and other nondestructive evaluation of carbons and fibers.

Capability Bounds: 

Low-temperature furnaces are capable of processing up to 10 kg per batch, and the graphitization furnace is limited to 6" diameter by 24" long.

Unique Aspects: 

The graphitization furnace is unique to the national laboratory system, and several of the furnaces are custom designs. Mostly, the group's uniqueness stems from its personnel and expertise.


Facilities are available for teaming with any other U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility under a standard DOE partnership. In addition, commercial partners can get access via cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) and Strategic Partnership Programs.

Single Point of Contact: 

James Klett, Senior Research Staff Member, klettjw@ornl.gov, 865-574-5219

  1. J. Klett, Carbon Foams, Chapter 2.6, Cellular Ceramics: Structure, Manufacturing, Properties and Applications, Michael Scheffler and Paolo Colombo, Editors, Wiley-VCH, Publisher, 2005, pp. 137-157.
  2. J. Klett, 'High Thermal Conductivity Mesophase Pitch-Derived Graphitic Foams,' Composites in Manufacturing, 14, 4, 1999.
  3. J. W. Klett, A. D. McMillan, N. C. Gallego, C. A. Walls, 'The Role of Structure on the Thermal Properties of Graphitic Foams,' J. Mat. Science, 39, p. 3659-3676, (2004).
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