Inorganic carbon foam materials maker CFoam (ASX: CFO) has briefed the market on the progress of its U.S. government-funded project as it moves towards commissioning equipment in West Virginia.
In early 2021, the US Department of Energy approved CFoam’s proposal for “continuous processing of carbon foam products made from carbon at atmospheric pressure” for a total project value of $ 2.42 million, including $ 1.92 million in funding from the department.
The 24-month project is focused on developing a carbon-derived carbon foam technology capable of capitalizing on the building board and lightweight aggregate markets.
Its objective is to design a continuous manufacturing process for carbon foam operating at atmospheric pressure that can ultimately reduce the cost of producing panels by more than 90%, which would allow a significant expansion in the size of the market and would use a much larger volume of coal.
The project arose out of the urgent need to meet the growing demand for construction with the disruptive technological process supposed to create significant market opportunities for a competitively priced carbon product.
In today’s update, CFoam outlined its targets and key objectives for the remaining 18 months of the project.
Commissioning the oven
The company is preparing to tick off the first goal on the list – commissioning a continuous furnace with a 68-foot-long conveyor belt and associated equipment at its manufacturing facility in Triadelphia, West Virginia.
Subsequently, CFoam aims to complete manufacturing optimization, process development and characterization, as well as application development for its carbon foam panels within this first year.
The second year of the project is expected to see the installation of carbon foam aggregate training and sizing equipment, as well as these same processes of manufacturing optimization, process development, characterization and development of applications for carbon foam aggregates.
Technical-economic studies and market analyzes will also be undertaken during the second year.
Market opportunities for carbon foam products
One of the earliest intended uses of CFoam carbon foam was as a fire resistant board. According to the manufacturer, many companies were initially discouraged from using carbon foam as a fire-resistant panel in buildings, airplanes and ships because of its high price.
With a forecast of 2 billion homes to be built worldwide over the next 80 years (at an average rate of 25 million per year), CFoam believes it can capture a “huge” share in this market if a lower price can be achieved. . .
âWe estimate that a modern mid-size home using carbon foam would use about 42.5 tons of charcoal, providing over 12,000 square feet of panel assuming a thickness of 1 inch. If carbon foam could be used for 10% of this projected house-building demand, more than 100 million tonnes of coal would be used each year, âCFoam predicted.
On the other hand, CFoam said that conventional lightweight aggregates have a low average price but represent “the greatest potential for very high volumes and high value”.
âIn the long term, we expect the manufacturing to be very similar to the methods currently used for conventional lightweight aggregates,â he said.
The company estimated that if 5% of the aggregates supplying the refractories, proppants, concrete and asphalt markets could be replaced with carbon foam aggregates, the annual demand for coal would exceed 400 Mt.
Smaller, but potentially shorter-term markets include composite tooling, which is currently the most common commercial application for CFoam carbon foam produced through the batch manufacturing process.
The company believes that all of these opportunities can be exploited in order as costs are reduced and capacity is increased, with the ultimate goal of achieving widespread use in construction and infrastructure.