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Classes of Crystalline Solids

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High-Tech Hockey

High-Tech Hockey

Credit: H?kan Dahlstr?m
Source: http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-252635638
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The hockey player skillfully handles his stick and slaps the puck toward the goal. The goalie tries to stop it as it rushes toward him, but it’s moving too fast. Score! The crowd roars with excitement! Like most professional sports, hockey has gone high tech. New materials, such as carbon fiber, are being used to make hockey sticks.

Why it matters

  • Carbon fiber is a material consisting of fibers about 5–10 μm in diameter that are composed mostly of carbon atoms. You can get an idea of how thin the fibers are by comparing a carbon fiber with a human hair in the image below (the carbon fiber is the smaller strand in the figure). 
  • The carbon atoms in carbon fibers are bonded together in crystals. The crystal alignment gives the fibers a high strength-to-volume ratio. In other words, the fibers are very strong for their size. 
  • Carbon-fiber hockey sticks have important advantages over more traditional materials. They have great strength while remaining very light in weight. Some players believe that they shoot better and stick-handle better due to the high-tech material.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cfaser_haarrp.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The carbon fiber (top right to bottom left) crosses a strand of human hair [Figure2]

Can You Apply It?

With the links below, learn more about carbon fiber and its use in hockey. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Carbon-fiber hockey sticks have become by far the most common sticks used in the National Hockey League (NHL). They are also growing rapidly in popularity with amateur and recreational players. Why have carbon-fiber sticks become so popular?
  2. Compare the properties of carbon fiber with the properties of steel.
  3. How are carbon fibers used to make fabric? How is the fabric made to take on a permanent shape, such as a hockey stick?
  4. Given its properties, carbon fiber would be a superior material for building cars. Carbon-fiber cars would be much lighter than steel cars and need less gas. Why isn’t carbon fiber used widely to make cars?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: H?kan Dahlstr?m; Source: http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-252635638; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cfaser_haarrp.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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