The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a 150+ member, University of Tennessee, Knoxville and U.S. Department of Energy driven consortium committed to increasing domestic production capacity and manufacturing jobs across the U.S. composites industry, announces a project to develop a robust and scalable composite recycling methodology.
The project is led by the American Composites Manufacturing Association (ACMA), and includes a team with Continental Structural Plastics, CHZ Technologies, A. Schulman, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Owens Corning and Ashland, LLC are also providing important support to the project. For decades, a recurring challenge for the composites industry has been to determine a process to recycle both process scrap and end-of-life composites and reduce the volume of composite materials going to landfill. This initiative aims to combat these issues.
“End-of-life composites have a perception of being inferior to competing materials in terms of cradle-to-cradle sustainability because they are difficult to recycle or reuse. This research will counter that perception by providing strong technical evidence to the composites industry for the recyclability of end-of-life composites,” said Tom Dobbins, President of ACMA.
The goal of this technical collaboration is to develop a mechanical and thermal recycling approach that captures both the energy value and residual ash/fiber. This supports IACMI’s goal to create 80 percent recyclability of composites within five years. The objective is to improve the sustainability of composite materials while reducing the amount of scrap and end-of-life composites sent to landfill. This project also supports ACMA’s goal to reclaim glass and carbon fiber from fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials. The project will study and test CHZ Technologies’ promising pyrolysis technology, which recycles all liquids, tars, and oils from composite materials and converts them into clean synthetic gases while recovering both glass and carbon fibers.
“The Thermolyzer offers a unique opportunity to recycle a vast scale of composite materials, making the integration of composites a feasible and sustainable option for many industries in the future,” said Uday Vaidya, Chief Technology Officer of IACMI – The Composites Institute, and UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.
The use of composites continues to increase due to its superior properties – including strength and lightweight. This IACMI/ACMA composite recycling project can further to help industry utilize composites to save costs and energy while reducing the amount of composite material that ends up in landfills each year.