Raw material for manufacture of basalt fiber.
Basalt corresponds to magmatic undersurface rock of main composition (originated from deep aluminum silicate melt) solidified in top layers of Earth crust or on its surface. Basalt content in the Earth crust exceeds 30%.
Unlike raw materials for manufacture of glass, basalt is already a ready to use natural raw materials for fabrication of fibers. Basalts contain (by weight): 45% 55% of SiO2; 10%-20% of Al2O3 and up to 20% of FeO+Fe2O3 as well as MgO. Besides the major oxides, basalts contain, in general (in form of mineral compounds) almost all elements of periodic table. Completely crystalline rocks of such composition are called dolerites; destroyed and modified by secondary processes basalts are known as diabases and basalt porphyries. Deep-earth analog of basalt has the name of gabbro.
History of Continuous Basalt Fiber (CBF).
Basalt fibers are divided into two big groups: continuous fiber and discrete fiber (rock wool, staple fiber) also known as basalt fine fiber (BFF).
Method of production of staple fibers was invented over five decades ago and it has been well perfected, while CBF production technology is young enough and being improved further.
Interest to continuous fibers emerged in the middle of 20th century when rocket, nuclear and electronic sectors were in demand for materials with special properties like strength of alloyed steel while significantly lighter and heatproof.
Properties of fiberglass, which industrial production had been already adopted in 1940th, failed to meet requirements of special applications. Carbon fibers are the best in terms of strength, durability and temperature range of application, but they are the most expensive also. Basalt continuous fibers were considered to be a material that excels fiberglass in most of technical characteristics, and at the same time is more compatible in terms of production cost and price.
Our Ukrainian partners has been developing CBF technology for several decades. Under some assessments, this business spent nearly $70-60 million dollars; the sum being large enough during the Soviet era. The success in CBF technology was achieved due to adequate research and development funding during the extended period giving the chance to pick necessary technological parameters of the method by experienced judgment.
First specimens of CBF were obtained in 1961 by a Soviet highly classified R&D institution. These specimens were rough, hardly elastic and only few meters long.
In 1974, Academy of Science established "Laboratory of basalt fibers" to deal with theoretical and practical aspects of fine and super-fine basalt fibers and materials made of it. One of its main goals was to develop method and equipment for manufacturing CBF.
The first industrial-scale CBF plant was constructed by our team member Victor Kibol in Ukraine at Belichsky "TeploZvukoizoliatsiya" factory (Kiev Region). The plant had a stone-melting furnace equipped with two feeders (feeder units). The feeders were equipped with platinum-rhodium bushings including heated feeding tube and a bushing itself. Feeder units provided production of high-quality fibers of 8 to 13 microns in diameter suitable for the textile process.
In 1990-1992 a feeder plant was built at fiberglass factory in Sudogda (Russia) under the lead of Victor Kibol. Existing enterprises and research institutions were engaged in development of CBF materials: like various types of fabrics, reinforcement meshes, road construction meshes, composite materials, section-shaped plastics, rebars, pipes, cylinders, vessels, and electrical insulators. These efforts resulted in accumulation of experience in manufacturing and application of CBF materials in various industrial fields, construction, energy, power in fabrication of composite materials for special purposes.
In late 1980th – early 1990th Ukrainian specialists built plants in Georgia and Kazakhstan. In 1997 development of CBF new generation technology and equipment – modular units, was started. In 2003 plant of "Kamenny Vek" company in Dubna city (Russia) was built. The necessity of designing new units design came from rising energy cost and also from high cost of equipment manufacturing; furnaces, feeders and excessive mass of bushings (the most expensive part of the equipment).