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From cars and bicycles to airplanes and space shuttles, manufacturers around the world are trying to make these vehicles lighter, which helps lower fuel use and lessen the environmental footprint.

One way that cars, bicycles, airplanes and other modes of transportation have become lighter over the last several decades is by using carbon fiber composites. Carbon fiber is five-times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and substantially lighter, making it the ideal manufacturing material for many parts.

In the December 2017 issue of Science, Gregg Beckham at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and an interdisciplinary team reported the results of experimental and computational investigations on the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into a bio-based chemical called acrylonitrile, the key precursor to manufacturing carbon fiber.

Beckham has been using XSEDE resources, including Stampede1, Bridges, Comet and now Stampede2, for about nine years as a principal investigator.


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