Composite Recycling

Why is recycling of composites so important?

Today, fiber-reinforced composites are used in numerous applications. Thanks to their potential for lightweight construction, they have become indispensable in many areas, for example, in aviation or the construction of wind turbines. And due to their outstanding properties, they are increasingly used in automotive and sports equipment manufacturing.

However, various wastes and high energy consumption along the process chain offset the positive prerequisites of fiber-reinforced composites. Therefore, our goal is not only to use the favorable properties for more sustainable constructions and progress in the field of renewable energies but also to make the manufacturing process already ecological. Therefore recycling of composites, especially at the end of the process chain and after the use phase, is essential.

 

Our focus in recycling composites is separating the individual materials of the fiber-reinforced plastic. This is a great challenge due to the structure of composite materials, in which carbon or glass fibers are firmly anchored in a plastic matrix (thermoset or thermoplastic).  

A sensible and efficient further processing of the recycled fibers or matrix base materials is also a current research topic. For this reason, Fraunhofer IGCV is working on the recycling of fiber composites, in particular carbon fiber plastics, to ultimately make an essential contribution toward a resource-saving and climate-neutral world.

Demonstrator zur Darstellung von Recycling von Composites: Umformung - Konsolidierung - Demonstrator - rCF-Bauteil - Schikane-Bauteil
© Fraunhofer IGCV
Demonstrator to show recycling of composites

Composite Recycling @Fraunhofer IGCV

Am Fraunhofer IGCV wurde eine einzigartige Nassvliesanlage im Technikumsmaßstab aufgebaut, mit der jegliche Fasermaterialien - vor allem recycelte Carbonfasern - zu innovativen und neuartigen Vliesstoffen verarbeitet werden können.
© A3 | Christian Strohmayr
At Fraunhofer IGCV, a unique pilot-scale wetlaid nonwovens facility has been set up to process any fiber materials - especially recycled carbon fibers - into innovative and novel nonwoven materials.

The focus of the numerous research projects of Fraunhofer IGCV in the field of recycling of composite materials is on the recycling of carbon fibers.

The researchers are investigating and developing the entire recycling chain, starting with fiber-matrix separation, characterizing the recovered carbon fibers, and finally reusing the carbon fibers in rCF semifinished products that are finally used again in a component. They are also looking at the life cycle assessment of materials made from rCF and the use of alternative, more sustainable matrix systems.
In the development of rCF-based semifinished products, they are advancing nonwoven, tape and yarn production with various partners, research institutes and industrial companies. The production of wetlaid nonwovens and their optimization is the focus of Fraunhofer IGCV, which operates its own wetlaid nonwoven plant on a pilot plant scale at the Augsburg site.

Demonstrator zur Darstellung von Recycling von Composites: Umformung - Konsolidierung - Demonstrator - rCF-Bauteil - Schikane-Bauteil
© Fraunhofer IGCV
Demonstrator

Industrial customers can profit from the expertise of Fraunhofer IGCV in the field of recycling composites through direct cooperation. Here, for example, the following topics can be covered:

  • Material and comparison studies
  • Process development and optimization
  • Technology consulting on recycling issues for carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) such as design for recycling and digital recycling management

Our fields of activity are as follows …

  • Single fiber characterisation
  • Composite characterisation
  • Fiber-matrix separation by e.g. pyrolysis (of e.g. CFRP)
  • Database with material properties of more than 100 rCF materials
  • Nonwoven development – especially wetlaid nonwovens
  • Consolidation of rCF-based semi-finished products (vario- and isothermal processing)
  • rCF tape development
  • Use of alternative matrix systems (e.g. bio-based)
  • Life cycle assessment

The modular training for "Composite Engineer" bundles the competencies of Fraunhofer Lightweight Construction Alliance in FVW. Participants in this course will be trained by experts working in current research in the various topics relevant to FVW. This ensures a direct transfer of knowledge and technology.

The module Sustainable Production Systems takes place at Fraunhofer IGCV in Augsburg.

More Information and dates

 

Wetlaid Technology

This pilot machine is used for the production of new and innovative wetlaid nonwovens. It is designed to be very flexible and can process natural, chemical and technical fibers (e.g. recycled carbon fibers).

Heating press

Moulding and consolidation of textile-based semi-finished products

  • iso- and variothermal processes
  • Pressing area: 860 x 600 mm
  • max. pressing force: 1370 kN
  • max. temperature: 360 °C
  • Various tools available

Pyrolysis oven

Specific fiber-matrix separation within the scope of composite recycling

  • Setting of individual cycles with preferred temperature, atmosphere, and retention time
  • Volume: 440 x 700 x 540 mm3 (WxLxH)
  • Max. Temperature: 800 °C
  • Heating rate: 6 K/min
  • Adjustable atmosphere (Ar, N2, O2)
 

Equipment for single fiber characterisation

  • AFM (atomic force microscope): Qualitative investigations on the fiber surface
  • FIMATEST: Single fiber tensile test (breaking stress, tensile stiffness, fiber diameter)
  • Pull-out test: Determination of fiber-matrix adhesion of resins, rCF, CF, GF and NF

Fiber composite
characterisation

  • Fiber volume content determination
  • Mechanical characterisation (tensile, bending, compression, charpy, etc.)
  • Microscopy
  • Thermal analysis
 

Nonwoven characterisation

  • Drape tester: determination of dry drapeability of nonwovens
  • Eddy current measurement device from Suragus: non-destructive testing, measurement of fiber orientation

 

 

MAI Scrap SeRO

From Scrap to Secondary Ressources – Highly Orientated Wet-Laid-Nonwovens from CFRP-Waste

 

Izi-Direct

Innovative non-destructive method for in-line characterization and quality assurance of discontinuous recycled carbon fiber semi-finished products.

 

CaRinA

»CaRinA« carbon fiber recycled materials for industrial applications.

 

WiPull

Standardization of the single fiber pull-out test to measure fiber-matrix adhesion.

Further competences and lead topics at Fraunhofer IGCV

 

Engineering

We are shaping the way into the future...

...of efficient engineering...

 

Production

 

...networked production and...

 

Multi-material solutions

 
...of intelligent multi-material solutions!
 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Smarter production – with artificial intelligence

 

Biological Transformation

Biological transformation offers great potential for a sustainable business.