A recent report in Basalt.Today projects that basalt fiber manufacturing will become a $200 million industry worldwide by 2020. Could Hawaii stand to benefit in this niche industry? PISCES is working on an answer.

With support from Rep. Mark Nakashima, the state-funded agency secured funding this year to conduct a market feasibility study for a Continuous Basalt Fiber (CBF) manufacturing operation in Hawaii. PISCES will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) by the end of the year to invite qualified engineering firms to submit proposals for the study.

Though lesser known, CBF is a material with applications and benefits that outweigh alternatives like glass- and carbon-based fiber products. CBF is abrasion and corrosion resistant, and has higher heat tolerance and superior insulation properties. Basalt fibers are also eco-friendly to produce, requiring no chemicals additives or aggregates for production. They can be used in a variety of applications including durable fabrics, aircraft materials, rebar and a host of other construction materials.

To produce the extremely fine filaments found in CBF, the raw basalt must meet a specific chemical profile. While it’s no secret that the Hawaiian Islands are primarily composed of basaltic lava rock, it may be lesser known that much of this basalt has the ideal chemical profile needed to produce CBF. Worldwide, there are many mines and open-air quarries producing raw basalt fines, but analysis shows that only a limited number of locations have the right type of basalt needed to produce the thin, glass-like filaments found in continuous basalt fiber.

PISCES’ upcoming market study aims to answer whether Hawaii can profitably contribute to the growing CBF industry. A successful operation would mean new manufacturing jobs, economic growth and business opportunities, as well as a sustainable new construction material with many uses.