CFRP: Recycling – the key to an ecological breakthrough
Due to their enormous lightweight potential, carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) are expected to be used in a wide variety of areas and to a much greater degree in the future. Therefore, a larger number of CFRP materials will become ever more prevalent in many industry sectors and in our daily lives. They exist in various forms, such as monofractions, mixed waste, or combination materials with fiberglass and/or metal inserts.
At present, there is no automatable recycling process chain that comprises all of the necessary process steps, including disassembly, sorting, and eventual comminution of accumulated CFRP parts as well as the uncovering, treatment, and reuse of the carbon fiber in a magnitude of several thousand tons per year or more.
Therefore, the goal of the MAI Recycling leading project is to develop an integrated recycling process chain that begins with production waste or mixed materials and extends to treated carbon fiber which is suitable for further use in a variety of products. Additionally, within the scope of the project, various techniques, such as e.g. decomposition at high temperatures (prolysis), will be applied, examined more closely, and optimized as potential recycling methods. Subsequently, the recycled carbon fiber will be analyzed, classified, and treated based on its material properties, with quality management methods developed within the project for this purpose
Figure: Recycled carbon fibers
(Source: bifa Umweltinstitut GmbH)
The recycled carbon fibers will be used in products which have both high ecological and economic added value. The project thus significantly helps to improve the quality of the recycling products and industrialize the recycling processes in the long term. In conjunction with suitable collection logistics, the large-scale commercial introduction of CFRP recycling will result in energy and resource savings. Therefore, the project makes an important contribution to the cluster’s goals of developing and establishing sustainable and efficient processes for CFRP composites.