According to a recent report cited in Basalt.Today, basalt fiber manufacturing is expected to become a $200 million industry worldwide by 2020. Could Hawaii stand to benefit by joining this niche industry? The answer may soon become clear.

With support from Rep. Mark Nakashima, PISCES secured funding this year to conduct a market feasibility study for a Continuous Basalt Fiber (CBF) manufacturing operation in Hawaii. PISCES expects to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) before the end of 2017 to invite qualified engineering firms to submit proposals for the study.

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

However, to produce the extremely fine filaments found in CBF, the raw basalt source 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 Hawaii Island’s basalt has the ideal chemical profile needed to make CBF. Worldwide, there are many mines and open-air quarries producing raw basalt fines, but analysis shows that only a limited number of these locations possess the type of basalt needed to make the thin filaments in continuous basalt fiber.

PISCES’ upcoming market study aims to find out if Hawaii can profitably contribute to the growing CBF industry valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. A successful operation in Hawaii would mean new manufacturing jobs, economic growth and business opportunities, as well as a sustainable new construction material with a wide variety of uses.