Economic, technical and life cycle assessment of recycled carbon fibers in industrial processes.

Multi-criteria evaluation of the use of recycled carbon fibers

Fiber composite solutions are in intense competition with other lightweight materials. Nevertheless, they often only go through one life cycle, and recycled carbon fiber (rCF) materials are not reused or only to a minimal extent. Reasons for this are insufficient knowledge and uncertainties regarding the possible component qualities, the possible quality variations, the achievable cost reduction, and the reduction of environmental impacts compared to conventional construction methods.

This is because, depending on the application area, product, and production boundary conditions, the use of recycled materials may or may not make economic and ecological sense. This fact, together with the multitude of processes and materials, makes it difficult for SMEs, in particular, to get started with the use of rCF.

Previous research projects show isolated solutions on how and where rCF can be used. The MAI ÖkoCaP project, on the other hand, is intended to provide decision-making aids for a large number of application cases and thus helps increase the market penetration of recycled materials.

Decision basis for the use of rCF

The central objective of the MAI ÖkoCaP project is to establish a robust and transparent basis for decision-making that allows the benefits of using rCF in different industrial applications and products to be estimated. 

© Fraunhofer IGCV

Component quality, environmental impacts, and product costs are named and compared. By systematically varying relevant material, process, and production parameters, the range of these three decision variables and the corresponding interactions are demonstrated, and the most critical levers are identified. Appropriate individual process steps and entire process routes from preparation and recycling to component manufacture will be investigated. The focus of the project is on rCF nonwoven materials. A wide range of further processing steps is considered, which consider the use of both thermoplastic and thermoset matrix materials. 


Data collection based on different steps of the recycling process

To establish a sound basis for evaluating the ecological, economic, and functional (mechanical) benefits of rCF, a broad base of high-quality data is required for a transparent assessment. Due to the number of material- and process-related variables during the recycling process, fiber preparation, nonwoven production, and further processing, very different specific property profiles result at the semi-finished product and at the component level, depending on the nonwoven variant.

To identify the effective relationships between the target variables - component quality, environmental impact, and product costs - as a function of these influencing variables, the MAI ÖkoCaP project is pooling existing knowledge and identifying and closing relevant data gaps. In cooperation with the project advisory board, many technical tests and plant measurements are being carried out for this purpose.

© Fraunhofer IGCV
rCF nonwoven

Expected project results

The data generated will serve as the basis for the multi-criteria decision analysis. At the end of the project, the generated results will be summarized in a guideline and made accessible in a web-based app so that users can answer the following overriding questions in the future based on specific process and product boundary conditions:

  • What are the technical, economic, and ecological potentials arising from recycling secondary carbon fibers?
  • Which technical, economic, and ecological potentials result from using rCF material for specific products?
  • Which materials and processes are suitable for my application?
  • What are the properties of my product made from secondary carbon fibers?

The systematic approach and preparation of results will help SMEs make a well-founded decision without having to familiarize themselves with the complex subject area in detail and at great expense beforehand.

In cooperation with the project advisory board, the project's scope of the investigation was focused, and the underlying experimental plan was detailed. The developed focus is on materials and manufacturing processes. The first technical test series and plant measurements will be carried out in the next step. 

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



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



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



Circular product design for automotive components made from recycled and sustainable composite material.

  • Cider (


Greenhouse gas reduction through high-quality recycling processes and materials

Cooperation with Fraunhofer IGCV

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