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July 13, 2023
3 Min Read
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Without the use of strong, lightweight composites, a more than 30% improvement in fuel and energy efficiency would have been out of reach for the aviation, transportation, and energy sectors. While these achievements are significant, there is one area where efforts to advance sustainability have lagged — recyclability.
A commitment to a CO2-neutral economy requires a sustainable approach to carbon-fiber composites recycling, one that addresses both the volume of waste being produced by the composites industry and the end-of-life (EOL) volumes that accumulate annually with limited disposal options other than landfill or incineration.
Huntsman is actively pursuing solutions to solve the composites recycling challenge. While several companies are currently active in finding industrial and economically viable solutions for recycling reinforcement fibers with a focus on carbon fiber, very few, if any, are looking at recycling the entire composite, including the fiber and resin or its chemical components.
Experts in Huntsman’s Advanced Materials division approached several recycling companies to propose collaborating on the recovery or recycling of the fiber, resin, and chemical components. They found an ally in V-Carbon Technologies, a UK-based advanced materials technology company.
Putting carbon fiber on the road to circularity
V-Carbon has developed the first fully integrated carbon-fiber (CF) circular economy for use in the aerospace, automotive, wind energy, and industrial sectors. A highly innovative and integrated process chain has been developed to deliver advanced materials systems using high-performance second-life carbon fibers. V-Carbon describes its technology-driven approach as disruptive, addressing the entire process chain from fiber to formulated products. Recovered carbon-fiber material systems retain their mechanical performance for high-performance, high-value applications across relevant market segments and are easily integrated into existing manufacturing platforms, according to the company.
V-Carbon technology is based on a patented chemolysis process that is able to deliver a complete circular economy with no waste: The carbon fiber, as well as the chemical resins obtained at the end of the recycling process, provide an opportunity for repurposing.
Reviving spent chemicals
“With our extensive experience in developing and manufacturing chemical products, we are well-matched to work with V-Carbon to analyze the resin recyclate that results from their chemolysis process,” said Klaus Ritter, technology intelligence manager in Huntsman’s Advanced Materials division. “By studying the output of the recycling process, we can identify new uses for the material, which helps solve the current end-of-life issue with high-performance composite materials.”
Huntsman and V-Carbon have agreed to join efforts to develop and optimize recovery of the chemicals present in the chemolysis recyclate, which was not possible previously, and develop sustainable uses for the recycled materials.
“Working with Huntsman allows us to provide even more value to our customers and to society as a whole,” said Damian J. Cessario, V-Carbon Technologies founder and CEO. “We were already successful in producing carbon-fiber yarn from our process. Our collaboration with Huntsman opens up additional opportunities for circularity in manufacturing by identifying sustainable solutions for the entire carbon-fiber composite material.”
About the Author(s)
Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and a proud dachshund owner.
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