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Boeing funds strategic carbon fibre recycling collaboration

United Kingdom – Boeing plans to invest US$ 1m per year in a strategic research collaboration with Nottingham University in the UK to improve the recycling of aircraft components made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastics.

The difficulty of recycling the composite materials means they have often gone to landfill from aircraft ‘graveyards’ in the desert, even though other parts are removed and sold or materials recycled when the planes retire from active service.

Researchers at Nottingham have been developing ways of recycling carbon fibre composites for the last decade, and have worked with Boeing since 2006. The aircraft manufacturer has agreed to fund the work for three years initially, but intends to continue on a rolling basis. The support will allow the university to carry out more technology development, with the aim of processing recycled fibre in new applications and products in collaboration with suppliers.

Sir Roger Bone, President of Boeing UK, commented: ‘The ultimate aim is to insert recycled materials back into the manufacturing process, for instance on the plane in non-structural sustainable interiors applications, or in the tooling we use for manufacture. This work helps us create environmental solutions throughout the lifecycle of Boeing products.’

Dr Steve Pickering, Project Leader at Nottingham University, added: ‘Our research has been developing recycling processes for carbon fibre composites for over 10 years in projects funded by industry, the UK government and the EU.

‘With Nottingham, Boeing is a partner in the ongoing AFRECAR (Affordable Recycled Carbon fibre) project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board. With colleagues Professor Nick Warrior and Professor Ed Lester, and industrial collaborators including Boeing, we are developing high-value applications for recycled carbon fibre along with new recycling processes.’

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