Like many products, fancy terms are often used for marketing purposes. Unfortunately, these terms are often misleading because they lack precise definitions. For example, we often see and hear “Nano-Carbon” rods, claiming to be much stronger than regular carbon fiber ones. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as nano-carbon; carbon fiber is not in nano-scale. Carbon fiber has a diameter of around seven microns, which is more than 70 times larger than nano-scale. Although there are carbon materials that are in nano size, i.e., Graphene or Nanotubes, unfortunately, none of these are found in your fishing rods due to their exorbitant cost in manufacturing without significant benefits to your rods.
Instead of ‘nano-carbon’, Toray recently developed a new technology called ‘Nanoalloy®,’ which can be used to manufacture composite fishing rods. What is Nanoalloy®? Nanoalloy® technology is to create a new polymer by combining two different polymers. The key of this technology is to uniformly disperse nano-particles of polymer A into polymer B, as per Figure 1. It was reported that such hybrid polymer improves the impact resistance of prepregs (carbon fiber resin-impregnated sheet). However, applying ‘nanoalloy resin’ is not enough to magically create high-performance prepregs for remarkable fishing rods.
TORAY, therefore, looked back to carbon fibers. TORAYCA® T1100G fiber, a new-class high-performance and high-strength carbon fiber, plays a dominant role in this new prepareg;. Paired with nano-alloy resin, TORAY achieved a 13% increase in prepreg strength compared to the conventional prepreg (T800 carbon fiber + standard resin). Therefore, to achieve a high strength prepreg, Nanoalloy® must be combined with high-performance carbon fiber, i.e., T1100G. Using Nanoalloy® with lesser strength carbon fiber will not yield the desired result, while Nanoalloy® resin brings high impact resistance to the pregpreg. This new material opened up opportunities for the development of next-level high-strength fishing rods. Their performance in angling is under further evaluation.
‘Nano-alloy’ is not the only technology that uses the somewhat popular term “Nano”. “Nano-carbon” can also refer to the nano-silica particles in carbon fiber fishing rods. Silica, or silicon dioxide, is easily found in sand and quartz, is a widely used filler in polymer to improve toughness. 3M, the global leader in adhesive technology, recently introduced a breakthrough resin that uses nano-sized silica spheres as a homogeneous, non-abrasive filler between carbon fibers. Nano-silica particles enhance the durability and modulus of neat resin, but they also increase density, resulting in more weight.
Nano silica resin is attractive for fishing rod manufacturers. Nano silica resin with higher strength carbon fiber can produce rods with enhanced strength, like nanoalloy resin. In addition, research shows upgrading regular fiber and resin with 20% nano-silica will also increase the resilience of blanks. However, again, properties of carbon fiber (e.g., upgrade from 24 ton to 46 ton) contribute more than nano-particles because nano-particles will not enhance interface bonding of carbon fiber and resin.
Nano-carbon thrown around so often is entirely unrelated to carbon fiber. There are state-of-the-art, new technologies like nanoalloy resin and nano-silica fillers which were adopted to make stronger fishing rods. In fact,, they are always used together with high-performance carbon fibers to show integrative effects. A type of nanoparticles in the system, just like an additive, is not a single panacea.
Dr. Wang Chen (Ph.D.)