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Review of IntertechPira Carbon Fibre Recycling & Reuse Conference

Nov '09
The world's first conference dedicated to carbon fibre recycling, held in Hamburg, Germany on 3 – 4 November 2009, offered a broad analysis of the current recycling technologies, commercial applications, the latest research results and future opportunities in this field.

Programme highlights
Dr Steve Pickering opened the conference with a comprehensive overview of the current recycling technologies on offer, illustrating the differences in the processes, the type of output material generated by each of the respective pyrolysis, fluidised bed and thermal fluid bed technologies. This was a detailed and comprehensive introduction to the event and Steve set the scene well in outlining progress to date with CF recycling, but also highlighting the challenges facing this fledgling industry.

Steve Line, CEO of the first fully commercialised recycling plant,Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd., based in the UK, gave a lively presentation, posing questions from the business perspective, and outlining the difficulties in establishing a baseline price for a recycled product that could (whether rightly or wrongly) be considered inferior to virgin material.

A brighter outlook from Boeing's Bill Carberry followed the coffee break, giving the aerospace sector's view on progress to date with recycling aircraft, and passed round a test component chair arm produced from recycled carbon fibre. Bill is also Deputy Director of AFRA, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, who have helped develop best practice methodology for many other material and component streams in end of life aircraft. He did make clear however, that while the latest state of the art planes from all mainstream producers were using a high percentage of carbon fibre, aircraft manufacturers would always use the best material for purpose and in the future there was no guarantee that this would be carbon fibre.

Day 1 closed with two complimentary papers from Imperial College London, from Soraia Pimenta and Dr Silvestre Pinho. Soraia presented the results of extensive mechanical testing of composites made using recycling fibres, and analysis of the failure mechanisms involved under different stress conditions. Soraia's study was particularly interesting in investigating the impact of 'bundles' or grouped, aligned fibres (artefacts from the source material) in the non-uniform nature of the recycled fibre composites, and how we might take advantage of some non-intuitive results.

Feedback for the manufacturers was that while performance was comparable with virgin materials, management of retaining 'bundles' in the matrix and preserving fibre length would be key in pushing performance yet further.

Silvestre's presentation followed up on this primary research, illustrating how we can use this detailed analysis to build models and predict the performance of composites made from recycled fibres. By better understanding the failure mechanisms, and behaviour of certain types of composite matrix, we can create a positive feedback loop in the design of the reclamation

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