Samples of carbon fibre, c 1962-1980.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (Rae), Farnborough, Hampshire. Early pre-preg is the name given to composite fabrics made from fibres that have been pre-impregnated with resin. It is important that each fibre is well-coated with polymer resins as this is difficult to achieve after the fabric has been woven. Carbon fibres were first manufactured in the 1960s, by heating acrylic fibres to high temperatures. The resulting filaments of pure carbon graphite are extremely strong and stiff because of the alignment of their crystalline structure. This makes carbon fibre highly suitable for use in the manufacture of aircraft wings and fuselages, specialist engineering and sports equipment, and in jet engines and rockets, where strength at high temperatures is required.