Most car guys know that carbon fiber is lightweight (and very cool-looking), but most don't know much past that. We stopped by well-known carbon fiber manufacturer Seibon's booth at the 2009 SEMA show to get the skinny on this miracle material.
To make wet carbon fiber parts, sheets of carbon weave are laid onto a mold between layers of resin, then cured. Wet carbon parts are lighter than their metal counterparts, but due to their hand-laid nature, are more prone to imperfections.
Carbon fiber is lightweight, but it's also quite stiff. Which means that it's strong enough to be used for parts like this huge wing without shattering, without adding a lot of mass above the vehicle's center of gravity.
Dry carbon fiber mats are preimpregnated with resin. The parts are formed in a vacuum mold under high heat and pressure. The heat and pressure cause the resin to evenly distribute throughout the part, with little to no waste.
Dry carbon fiber parts are both lighter (less resin used) and stronger (fewer imperfections) than their already lightweight wet counterparts. This S2000's hardtop and fastback need to be light to keep the vehicle's center of gravity low.
Carbon fiber is no new thing to the world of cycling. In fact, road bikes have been using the material for years now. Seibon has recently begun to offer its own bike frames, such as this folding commuter bike.