Infinity | High-performance tapes made from recycled carbon fibers for lightweight construction

Greenhouse gas reduction through high-quality recycling processes and materials

Substitution of new material with high-quality recycled products (rCF tapes)

Use of load-path-compatible manufacturing processes.

The use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics and the associated material efficiency compared with metallic materials play a crucial role in lightweight construction. However, the production of new carbon fibers is based on fossil raw materials and is very energy-intensive and inefficient in using resources. Therefore, the one-time use of this reinforcing fiber is highly harmful to the climate and the environment.

This does not have to be the case: In the »Infinity« project, we are establishing a sustainable process cycle for carbon fiber composite materials.

The »Infinity« project, for example, is implementing an efficient and fiber-friendly recycling process for carbon fibers that can turn this high-value resource back into a semi-finished product for a high-performance application.

© Fraunhofer IGCV
Effect of fiber orientation in CFRPs on performance and price

Process: Efficient and fiber-friendly recycling method

At the start, there is an innovative type of pyrolysis which, in addition to the use of high-quality rCF, for the first time also enables material recycling of the pyrolysis oil produced.

After separation of fibers and matrix, the fibers obtained by the process are prepared in a modified textile carding process and further processed into highly oriented rCF tapes in an additional downstream process.

Value chain considered in the Infinity project: fiber recovery by pyrolysis, tape processing, fiberplacement and functionalization.

 

Further processing of the generated rCF tapes

By using different fiber placement technologies, these highly oriented rCF tapes can be deposited according to the load path to find application in demanding areas such as aerospace. In addition, due to its discontinuous fiber structure, very high draping capability up to deep drawability / flowability can be achieved with the rCF tape, and there is the possibility of realizing tight lay-up ratios (steering), which - according to the current state of the art - are not possible with unidirectional materials.

In the direct injection molding process, the rCF tapes are also functionalized using recycled carbon fibers as a reinforcing phase. In addition, the component receives further functionalization through physical foaming.

Thus, this material represents the highest possible recycling result for CFRP components at the fiber level and is far superior to the current recycling methods, such as hazardous waste incineration or recycling as classic rC nonwovens.

Demonstration based on a user-oriented component from the lightweight construction industry

In the »Infinity« project, the fiber-friendly recycling process is demonstrated using a thermoplastic structural component from the aerospace sector, which can also be used to show material substitution.

By drawing up a life cycle assessment, the potential CO2 savings in fiber separation, the manufacture of the component, and its functionalization are also demonstrated.  

Of course, the process is not limited to the aerospace sector but is explicitly transferred to all lightweight construction sectors (automotive, wind power, and sports). 

More interesting reference projects on this topic:

 

MAI Carbon »CaRinA«

»CaRinA« carbon fiber recycled materials for industrial applications.

 

MAI Scrap SeRO

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

 

WiPull

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

 

Izi-Direct

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

 

Mai ÖkoCap

Multi-criteria evaluation of the use of recycled carbon fibers.

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