Carbon fiber has been touted as the material of the future for decades. Reinforced plastics (called composites) with carbon fiber are several times stronger and several times lighter than steel or aluminum. The problem, of course, is that carbon fiber composites are also much more expensive — anywhere from $40 per pound to $500 per pound depending on the application.
However, carbon fiber has recently scored its first major commercial success, in the aerospace market. Aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus had been experimenting with carbon fiber composites for a number of years, but the material was never able to be used for large aircraft structures such as the wings or body. That all changed with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which uses carbon fiber composites for the main structure, accounting for about half of total weight of the plane.