Seeking solution for carbon fiber reuse
Published on April 22nd, 2022
To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, a ground-breaking project sees the launch of an alliance of International Federations, leading sports manufacturers, composite specialists, and academics collaborating to support a demonstration project to reuse and realign carbon fibers.
The Carbon Fibre Circular Demonstration Project is being run by the World Sailing Trust, the charitable organization affiliated to World Sailing, as part of their Planet key focus area, ensuring sailing has a lasting positive impact and that the planet’s waters are protected and safeguarded.
Supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), multi-sport collaboration has been a key driver of this project – across both International Federations and sports equipment manufacturers with the aim of engaging with equipment end users.
Working with World Sailing and the International Biathlon Union, supported by Wilson Sporting Goods, the alliance includes International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) as well as sports equipment manufacturers Starboard, SCOTT Sports and OneWay, who are collaborating to support an innovative and disruptive program based on the reuse of carbon components within the sports sector.
The alliance is working with Technical Lead Lineat Composites with assistance from the research department of the University of Bristol based at the National Composite Centre in Bristol, on a demonstration project to show how it is possible to reclaim broken/failed carbon components from a particular sports sector through a novel reclamation process that realigns the fibers into uni-directional prepreg tapes utilizing the innovative HiPerDiF process system.
New technical carbon tapes will then be supplied to component manufacturers within the alliance to integrate into new technical components for reuse. A typical example would take a broken carbon bike component and utilize the fibers to make new tapes and use them in a second life in a carbon ski pole, a sailing component, or a tennis racket.
Carbon fiber is a high performing material used in a variety of industries. Weight and strength properties have resulted in the material being widely used in sport equipment, especially in elite level competition. The use of the material is growing, and sport represents the third largest user of the material behind aerospace and the wind turbine industry.
However, carbon fiber cannot be remelted and recycled like aluminum and, to date, no sustainable end of life solution has been available for carbon fiber.
The project looks at taking the broken component, realigning its fibers, and then reusing that carbon fiber to make a new component. The process, not dissimilar to a high-tech paper making process, produces carbon fiber tape that early results from this demonstration project show are, in some cases, better than the original virgin fiber.
The manual R&D machine based at the National Composite Centre allows Lineat Composites and the research team from the University of Bristol, to align carbon fibers manually, but the machine in next stage of the process will allow Lineat to commercialize and align around 80 billion fibers daily, which when placed in a line will go around the world three times.
“Collaboration and alliance has been a key driver in this project,” shared Dee Caffari, Chair of the World Sailing Trust. “We know that sport in general has a very high use of carbon fiber, particularly within high-end performance sports.
“However, the usage of carbon fire in some other industries is even greater. This demonstration project has been a first step and we are now keen to invite other sports and industries to develop the next stage of this process.”
Source: World Sailing Trust