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UTSI’s Carbon Fiber Exhibit Attracts Interest at Governor’s Conference

The University of Tennessee Space Institute shared information about the potentials for low-cost carbon fibers with economic developers from around the state during the recent Governor’s Conference in Nashville.

“I welcome the interest that our exhibit attracted during the two-day event,” said Ahmad Vakili, UTSI professor who is heading the Institute’s research in the pitch-based carbon fiber production and advanced carbon based materials.

“Our immediate objectives in our newly opened laboratory are to produce UTSI carbon fibers and develop a number of applications of this technology. At the same time we would like to cultivate commercial partners who might help the potential for multi-faceted industrial use, and begin establishing Middle Tennessee as a center for pitch-based carbon fiber application technologies.”

Vakili said some developers expressed “pleasant surprise” that the project goal is to make carbon fiber for as low as about $5 a pound. He said a number of state agencies were interested in the carbon fiber research at UTSI and its potential impact.

“Ms. Franketta Guinn, a contractor for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, was in particular interested in applications that would improve the life of roads and transportation systems for TDOT,” Vakili said.

Others representing UTSI at the conference included John E. Caruthers, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Space Institute, and Joel W. Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and dean of research and development and operations.

During the conference at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel and Convention Center, Gov. Phil Bredesen presented Coffee County and Franklin County leaders with the Governor’s Three-Star Award.

Other speakers included Matt Kisber, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, who announced that the new Tennessee Leadership Center will be headquartered at the BellSouth Economic Development Center in the firm’s Tennessee headquarters building in downtown Nashville. Kisber, one of the visitors to UTSI’s display, said the center was an initiative that grew out of revamping the governor’s Three-star program.