Carbon fibre is a very strong and rigid material which, in combination with an epoxy resin matrix, creates a composite with exceptional mechanical properties. In addition to being used for aircraft, carbon fibre is used in wind turbines, cars, sports equipment and many other applications. A closed loop recycling system involves a shift from carbon fibre as a waste stream to a material that can be reused for the production of new materials and components.
Photo: Carbon fibre in the tail of an A320 aeroplane
"Carbon fibre composite aircraft parts are nowadays usually shredded and burned or dumped," says Aerocircular CEO Koen Staut. "The aim behind joining forces with ELG Carbon Fibre as an established international player in carbon fibre recycling is to establish a closed loop recycling process with our carbon composite material stream. We intend to maximize value through a cooperative approach by developing the recycling process further as well as developing new products using this regenerated carbon fibre," adds R&D Manager Stein Janssens. "The cooperation with ELG will bring about a robust, economically viable recycling stream with impact on an industrial scale. As such, each tonne of carbon fibre from aircraft we process into new material saves 20 tonnes of GWP CO2eq at only one tenth of the energy required compared to the production of pure carbon fibre."
"The recycling of post-industrial waste in aircraft production has demonstrated the economic, technical and environmental benefits that this new class of materials can deliver," said Frazer Barnes, Managing Director of ELGCF. "By working with Aerocircular and expanding our operations into post-consumer waste from end-of-life aircraft, we are preparing to take on the challenge when carbon fibre-intensive structures reach the end of their lifespan. This is an important step in making sure that the carbon fibre composites industry plays its part in addressing the environmental challenges we all face".
Aerocircular is a young company that introduces the Circular Economy in the EoL aircraft sector. With Lufthansa as its first major customer, an operational site in Ostend (BE) and new sites under development in Phoenix, Arizona (US) and Abu Dhabi (UAE), the company is growing rapidly. The recycling of carbon-fibre composite material fractions from dismantled aircraft is a major challenge, and volumes are expected to increase drastically with current generation aircraft carrying more than 50 percent CFRP by weight.
ELG Carbon Fibre is a world leader in carbon fibre recycling and has established the world's first and largest recycling plant in the UK. With extensive experience in recycling aircraft manufacturing waste for OEMs and Tier 1 manufacturing companies, ELG plans to extend the carbon fibre waste stream to EoL streams as well and to develop processing, new materials and market applications in the field -- a good match with Aerocircular's objectives.
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