Unless you're an engineer--or have already done a lot of shopping for men's carbon fiber wedding bands--odds are that you haven't heard of carbon fiber. While it's less well-known than steel, aluminum, and other common metals, it's far from a new invention.
Carbon fiber has actually been around for more than 150 years, however it's only been widely used for around 50 years. Carbon fiber was invented by Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. In 1960, he created the fiber while he was building an early version of an incandescent light bulb. By 1879, Thomas Edison was using a version of carbon fiber filaments in his own light bulbs. Carbon fiber has a high heat tolerance, which made it ideal for use as a conductor. Carbon fiber would continue to be used in light bulbs until the early 1900s. At that time, tungsten became the material of choice for light bulb filaments, and carbon fiber fell to the wayside.
It would take more than 50 years for carbon fiber to make it back onto the radar of manufacturers. In 1958, a researcher at a technical center in Cleveland, Ohio accidentally created a new form of carbon fiber. From there, carbon fiber began being used by various scientists and researchers who worked to create more cost-effective methods of producing the material.
The version of carbon fiber used today is largely derived from methods invented in the late 1970s. That's when carbon fiber became stronger and more lightweight, as well as less expensive to produce. Carbon fiber's natural color is black and while black carbon fiber is the most popular, there are many variants, including blue carbon fiber and green carbon fiber among others.