New technologies for the recycling of glass and carbon fibre waste

The European RECREATE project will research new technologies to reuse waste carbon fibre or glass composite materials

The GAIKER Technology Centre, a member of the Basque Research & Technology Alliance, BRTA, is participating in the European project Recycling Technologies for Circular Reuse and Remanufacturing of Fiber-Reinforced Composite Materials, RECREATE, the aim of which is to develop a set of innovative technologies aimed at exploiting the potential of waste from complex composite materials at the end of their useful life, mainly carbon fibre reinforced composites -CFRC- and glass fibre reinforced composites -GFRC.

The lightweight composites market is expected to grow by 7.5% per year. There is an increasing demand for fibre materials (especially carbon fibre) in sectors such as automotive, transport and, in general, in the field of lightweight design. However, different legislations are progressively banning waste and dumping of these composite materials.

Consequently, it is crucial that new recycling technologies are identified that allow the recovery and reuse of materials and components and that have acceptable environmental sustainability and economic profitability.

In this context, the RECREATE project arises, which will develop and validate reuse strategies for the regeneration of large EoL (End of Life) composite parts, including complex multi-material composites, based on intelligent recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted systems.

To achieve these objectives, an EU-wide mapping of existing composite waste will be started and recycled parts will be selected with the aim of understanding the nature and composition of complex multi-material composites and assessing their structural integrity with a view to their possible reuse as raw material or as parts. In addition, a prototype unit and a A prototype unit and monitoring software for waste recognition using LIBS technology, active/passive thermography, X-ray, ultrasound-based technologies, among others, will be built for future use as an intelligent sorting unit in continuous processes. This unit will help to understand the nature and composition of composite waste and to assess its structural integrity with a view to its possible reuse. Finally, the feasibility of reuse and/or recycling approaches for the composite materials, as well as the recycled materials obtained, will be demonstrated at pilot scale.

During the four years of this research, financed by the European Union within the Horizon Europe programme, GAIKER will work on the development and integration of a new technology for the remanufacturing and reuse of large composite components. The development of this new technology will be based on the remodelling of large polyester composite parts with a simple geometry into flat geometry parts by adjusting the pressure and temperature at the point of maximum deformation of the material to release most of the residual stresses without thermal degradation.

Different companies, universities and research centres collaborate in the RECREATE project: Politecnico di Milano (coord.), Tampere University, Fraunhofer, Icam Ouest, University of Patras, GAIKER, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Invent, Iris Technology Solutions, Cobat Compositi, Rescoll, Res-T, Benasedo, Carbon Cleanup, Giacomelli Media, Grifo multimedia, EDAG Engineering, HEAD Sport, Geven s.p.a., APRA Europe and AVK.