A multi-partner UK project, Fibrecycle, has developed a new generation of high performance, low cost co-mingled carbon fibre yarns and fabrics, with funding support from the Technology Strategy Board.
The yarns and fabrics are blended carbon/PET, manufactured from virgin recovered carbon fibre that would otherwise have gone to landfill. These new materials have almost 100% of the stiffness of virgin materials, but they can be offered at a lower cost than similar products currently available on the market. They are also beneficial to the environment and retain the traceability of virgin materials.
In common with other co-mingled and blended materials, the fabrics are simply placed in a mould tool under pressure and passed through a heating and cooling cycle.
As worldwide carbon fibre composite usage grows, there is concern about the potential tonnage of waste from manufacturing processes and end-of-life products. The waste related to carbon fibre products will quickly reach a significant level to become an important environmental issue, so there is a strong interest in developing processes for recovering and recycling carbon fibre from waste materials.
Fibrecycle is a UK funded research project composed of six partners and the aim of this project is to develop long and continuous yarn, based on carbon fibre recovered from waste streams, to allow the manufacture of technical fabric for the composites industry.
The project is nearing the end of its four year programme and has made excellent progress against its objectives of developing low cost, high performance carbon fibre materials from waste streams. Yarns, sliver and tape have been produced, together with both woven and non-crimp fabrics. Composite laminates have been press-moulded, showing that the carbon/PET (50:50 weight ratio) composites offer at least 50% of the tensile strength and 90% of the tensile modulus of an equivalent composite based on virgin fibres. The partners are now working towards low cost carbon/epoxy materials using recovered carbon fibre, as well as other thermoplastic matrices such as PP, PA and PPS.
Project Manager Dr Sophie Cozien-Cazuc of ACG said
The materials that have been developed have a significantly lower environmental impact than virgin carbon fibre, because they divert materials from landfill and do not consume the energy needed to produce new fibres. The properties achieved mean that it is suitable for many applications especially in the automotive, aerospace, sports and leisure, medical and energy sectors
The partnership is now starting to tailor the material towards applications in each of these areas, working with companies who are interested in using these lower-cost blended carbon fibre materials. They are looking for additional companies to join this process and help assess the suitability of the material for these different applications and markets.