Joining carbon fiber composites and aluminum for lightweight cars and other multi-material high-end products could become less expensive and the joints more robust because of a new method that harnesses a laser’s power and precision.
The process, developed by a team led by Adrian Sabau of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, would replace the practice of preparing the surface of the materials by hand using abrasive pads, grit blasting and environmentally harmful solvents. Using a laser to remove layers of material from surfaces prior to bonding improves the performance of the joints and provides a path toward automation for high-volume use.
“Our technique is vastly superior to the conventional surface preparation methods,” Sabau said. “Combined with the potentially dramatic reduction in the cost of carbon fiber polymer composites, this represents an important step toward increasing the use of this lightweight high-strength material in automobiles, which could reduce the weight of cars and trucks by 750 pounds.”