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Recovery of as-new carbon fibers from waste composite materials

Country of Origin: Luxembourg
Reference Number: TOLU20180327001
Publication Date: 27 March 2018

Summary

A private R&D company from Luxembourg is offering a new process for the recovery of carbon fibers from waste CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) and hybrid GF-CFRP (glass fiber-carbon fiber reinforced plastic). Clean and intact carbon fibers can be recovered by chemically-reactive elimination of the polymer matrix (primarily epoxy resins). The properties of the recovered fibers are largely identical to those of the original fibers. The company is looking for technical cooperation agreements.

Description

The increasing use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics in lightweight construction goes along with growing amounts of waste. The majority of this waste has so far been deposited or burnt, representing a massive destruction of value and environmental pollution.  

Efficient recovery of re-usable carbon fibers from such waste is a necessity for the future. This is why this totally new process,which allows the complete release of the fibers from the polymer matrix, has been developed by a private R&D company in Luxembourg.

Not only can any length of fiber be recovered, in principle, but it is also possible to obtain oriented long fibers - instead of the usual randomly tangled shorter ones.

Furthermore, concepts for endless fiber recycling exist already and it has also been successfully proven that clean, fully preserved, large CF-fabric patches can be recovered for direct re-use and multiple recycling.

Compared to all known recycling concepts such as pyrolysis or solvolysis, the process is new and fundamentally different. It has a clear unique selling proposition with regard to hybrid carbon fiber/glass fiber composites : both, the carbon fibers can be recovered in their pure form and at the same time the glass fibers can be totally eliminated.

The Luxembourg-based company is looking for a partner to develop further the technology and bring it to the market, and therefore several types of collaboration agreements such as technical cooperation can be discussed.
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Advantages and Innovations

The process is
· technically relatively easy to carry out (pressureless plant engineering, relatively low temperatures)
· fast (liberation of the carbon fibers within a few minutes)
· resource- and energy-efficient (by calculation: energy self-sufficient)
· emission-free (no CO2 emissions)
The process enables
· recovery of a carbon fiber quality hardly differing from the original fibers
· influencing fiber surface characteristics via reaction control
· production of unordered random fibers as well as the preservation of textile structures
· gain of nearly any fiber length, depending only on the dimensions of the reactor ("endless fiber" possible)
· multiple recycling of the same fiber without noticeable loss of quality
Further advantageous features of the process are
· the possibility to liberate fibers only partially from the composite material and/or in an oriented way
· the relative insensitivity to foreign components in CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) such as metals or wood
· the production of other secondary raw materials (soda, hydrogen) in addition to the recovered carbon fibers

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Stage Of Development Comment

The laboratory stage of the process development (feasibility study) is completed. The recycled fibers are being tested in prototype applications.

Requested partner

The ideal partner should be willing to invest in the further development of the process. He should be able to implement a marketable technology scale-up and market the process.
The partner should also be able to find new applications or develop products made of recycled fibres.
Task: Technology transfer (technical cooperation, commercialization)

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