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[China Daily] Researchers Discover New Way to Recycle Carbonfiber Waste

February 02, 2016      Author: Wang Hongyi


A team of researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University has developed a new technologyand equipment for recycling carbon fiber composite waste material.

Carbon fiber is often described as "the king of new materials" and is mostly used in themanufacture of spacecraft, aircraft, communication satellites and other cutting-edgetechnologies. It is also widely used in cars, bicycles, tennis rackets and fishing rods.



A manufacturing plant that produces carbon fiber in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. A Chinese research team recently developed a technology to recycle carbon fiber.


There are about 60 to 70 kilograms of carbon fiber in every 100 kg of aviation carbon fibercomposite waste material. The total amount of carbon fiber composite waste material in theworld is expected to reach 50,000 metric tons by 2020. Of that total, the amount of carbonfiber will exceed more than 25,000 tons and will be worth more than 5 billion yuan ($760million), according to experts.

"The carbon fiber in the composite waste material still has a high recycling value, but in actualoperations it is very difficult to regenerate the carbon fiber. This is a bottleneck in the furtherdevelopment of composite materials," said Yang Bin, an associate professor at the School ofChemistry and Chemical Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The commonly usedcarbon fiber composite material is mainly composed of carbon fiber and thermosetting resins,which is insoluble and nonfusible. In the past, the carbon fiber composite waste material wereprocessed by burying or burning it, but which led to environmental pollution. Dumping orburning it is currently banned by the Chinese government.

The task of regenerating carbon fiber from the material waste andrecycling the thermosetting resins in the form of energy or usefulmaterial is the challenge ahead, Yang said.

And after five years, the team has discovered a method to accomplishexactly that. The team developed a technology that allows the material waste to be processedin large chunks, without the need to cut or grind them into small pieces. The result is aregenerated carbon fiber that is longer.

The technology can be undertaken on a large-scale operation, with annual processingcapacity exceeding more than 200 tons. Earlier, only three companies in Germany, Japanand the United States had an industrialized technology for recycling carbon fiber compositewaste material.

Thus far, the technology from Shanghai Jiao Tong University's researchers has been listed inthe 2015 automotive industry standards to guide the recycling and reuse of automotivematerials by the China Automotive Technology and Research Center.

"The country has been actively promoting the application of carbon fiber composite materials.The new technology has taken into account the need to reuse resources and protect theenvironment, which will play a positive role for the economy's sustainable development," saidYi Xiaosu, director of the State key laboratory of advanced composite material at BeijingInstitute of Aeronautical Materials.




Source: China Daily