From graphene, to ceramics, to carbon fibre
Making a resilient, intelligent and adaptable clothing means Vollebak often end up re-engineering materials that started life being used for radically different things. The company made jackets using graphene, glass, and bio-luminescent material, they’ve built layering systems out of ceramics, hoodies from fireproof aramid fibres, and we’ve designed pants and vests from a material designed to outlive you. Next on our journey is a t shirt woven with carbon fibre.
It’s the atomic structure that makes carbon fibre so strong
A single carbon fibre is a long, super thin strand of material around 0.005mm across and composed almost entirely of carbon atoms. These atoms bond together to form microscopic crystals that line up parallel to the length of the fibre. It makes the atomic structure of carbon fibre similar to graphite and graphene – with sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern. And it’s the arrangement of the atoms that makes carbon fibre so strong for its size.
Carbon fibre is made up of thousands of these individual carbon filaments bundled together and protected by a coating
Carbon fibre can be 5x stronger than steel and much lighter
Carbon fibre is made up of thousands of these individual carbon filaments bundled together and protected by a coating. These larger carbon fibres are classified by how much pulling force the fibre can exert without breaking – known as tensile modulus. Whereas steel has a tensile modulus of around 29 million pounds of force per square inch (PSI), carbon fibre ranges from around 30 to 145 million PSI, which is 5x stronger than steel.
Carbon fibre as a composite
Carbon fibres are typically combined with other materials to make a composite. That’s why the classic image of carbon fibre is the black and grey checks on a bike frame or supercar. These are carbon fibres impregnated with a plastic resin and baked to create carbon fibre reinforced polymer. If your t shirt was made from that it would be completely solid, so we’ve done something different.
Only weights 170 grams
How the company puts carbon fibre into a t-shirt
As well as being baked into other materials, carbon fibres can also be woven into them to increase their strength. As carbon fibre is thinner than human hair, it only gets its strength when thousands of these tiny fibres are twisted together to form a yarn. And it’s this yarn that the company have woven into each t-shirt. To the naked eye the carbon fibre will look like a series of single threads. But in reality, each one is a rope-like bundle of thousands of carbon filaments bound together.
It offers hardcore protection
Each carbon fibre t-shirt is embedded with over 120 metres of carbon fibre strands. While every carbon fibre thread is smooth and soft to the touch, each one has the same strength as steel, helping make the t-shirt highly abrasion resistant. The carbon fibre essentially acts like a ripstop to save user skin. And as it’s woven into the t-shirt, these threads can’t be scratched off or washed out.
Carbon Fibre T Shirt is embedded with over 120 metres of carbon fibre strands
Why abrasion resistance matters
Abrasion resistance is clothes’ ability to withstand friction and wear and tear. Whether client are lugging climbing rope over their shoulder, they come off their bike on a downhill track, or their bag is shifting up and down on your back on a long run, that’s all abrasion.
How carbon fibre compares to ceramics
In 2017 Vollebak used ceramics to create a tough t-shirt – the condition black ceramic t-shirt. Since then it’s been taken into jungles, battlefields and live volcanoes. The idea for the carbon fibre t-shirt was simply to give it something to compete with. The carbon fibre t-shirt is grey not black, so should absorb less heat. It’s around 10 grams lighter. And where the ceramics are embedded into the surface of the t shirt, the carbon fibre is woven in.
It’s crazily stretchy as well as tough
The more elastane there is in a piece of clothing the more it can stretch. And the last thing wearers want when they’re pulling any extreme or repetitive move is resistance from their kit. The carbon fibre t-shirt has 4 way stretch as it is 36% elastane, so whichever way wearers stretch, pull or turn, it will simply go with them. It’s normally difficult to make something very tough and stretchy at the same time, but carbon fibre lets them combine toughness with the properties of an elastic band.
Carbon T shirt is made in a different way compared to classic composites, otherwise it would be completely solid
Designed for the unknown
Adventure sport is never predictable, so the company have created a t-shirt that protects wearers from every angle, rather than second-guessing where they might need it. The entire surface area of the t shirt is abrasion resistant. Every square centimetre has carbon fibre running through it.
It’s breathable and lightweight
Vollebak carbon fibre t-shirt is breathable and also hydrophilic, which means it will soak up any sweat and get rid of it fast, so wearers stay comfortable and dry. While the outside is super-resilient, the underside has a soft, silky feel, making it easy to wear all day, and only weights 170 grams.
Breathable, lightweight and crazily stretchy