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‘Recycling carbon fibre not impossible’

The UK’s National Composites Centre (NCC) is conducting ‘ground-breaking’ research to prove that composite materials can be recycled at end-of-life for use in new and advanced industry applications.

The innovative R&D project is a cross-sector collaboration with Network Rail, Airbus, Shell and Gen 2 Carbon (formerly known as ELG Carbon Fibre). So far, the parties have successfully extracted carbon fibre from two decommissioned Airbus A320 aircraft using a pyrolysis process. The reclaimed fibres are currently being processed and configured into a fabric that can be used with liquid resin composite manufacturing processes.

The new material combination will be assessed and characterised for mechanical performance before being used to manufacture various products such as a wheelchair ramp for the rail sector.

The project partners are confident their work will demonstrate the cross-sector application possibilities for end-of-life composites with learnings being transferred to other products in sectors such as construction, transport and automotive.

‘The NCC is at the forefront of the use of advanced composites, working with industry to anticipate the future needs and applications across the sectors,’ says the organisation’s chief technology officer Dr Enrique Garcia. ‘The diverse consortia involved in this project highlights the near-term challenges being faced across a number of industries and the importance of our work to find sustainable solutions for end-of-life composites.’

He adds: ‘This initiative is successfully developing the technologies required to overcome these challenges, paving the way for a new supply chain of recycled composites, allowing more industries to make use of their unique, beneficial properties at a lower cost.’

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