Mitsubishi Chemical Group has recently opened a new recycling equipment in Wischhafen, Germany, dedicated to the treatment of carbon fibres reinforced plastics. It collaborated with tech provider Barradas to find the best way to cut this ‘almost indestructible’ material.
‘Carbon fibres materials can be found pretty much anywhere nowadays: in airplanes, wind turbines, cars or bicycles’ says Matthias Eske, sales manager at Barradas, located in Dortmund. ‘Built to last, it has a very high tensile strength and difficult to shred. ‘The million-dollar question is: how do you recycle it?’
Recycling Line Pyrolyse – Shredding is only the first step, but important how to cut.
Getting the right answer took two years of trial and error at a pilot plant. The wings of an airplane were successfully processed as well as various types of cars. ‘I got tears in my eyes when they shredded the body frame of a Bugatti,’ Eske recalls. ‘It was beautiful and very lightweight. You could lift the chassis with your bare hands.’
Together with Mitsubishi Chemical, Barradas was able to create a recycling line that yields a carbon fibre and resin blend called CFRP. The Barradas unit stands six metres tall, strong, heavy, big and powerful.
The recycling line is equipped with high-pressure pumps generating a fine mist requiring almost no water. This is important because the long fibres are electrically conductive. ‘You must pay close attention to how you treat carbon fibres,’ says Eske.
Smart and tough system
It has proved advantageous to equip the plant with the ICS intelligent control system developed.
EV plant in the works
Barradas is also working with recyclers of electric vehicles to advance battery recycling. The solution is said to be suitable for multiple brands of car batteries.
Our goal is to recover pure black mass, which is very valuable. ‘Cobalt and lithium, especially, are highly sought after. Our tests, conducted at multiple different recyclers, demonstrate we can separate the black mass at one single point in the recycling process, with a recovery rate of 98%.’
The technology company has recently signed a contract with a major recycling firm. For now, he can reveal that a battery recycling plant is scheduled to be commissioned sometime next year.
‘The extra recycling capacity is coming at an important time; the price of battery metals is overheating and the shortage of available metals continues to cause bottlenecks across the value chain,’ Barradas says. ‘Following the pandemic and now the war between Russia and Ukraine, prices are soaring, while missing spare parts and delays are part of everyday business. The industry is crazy at the moment.’