The UK government and composites organizations have launched a new initiative to develop and industrialize new sustainable composite materials.
According to project partners the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), the Sustainable Composites initiative will focus on the £2 billion global market for end-of-life recycling.
While composites are lighter, stronger, more durable, longer lasting, and allow more flexibility in design when compared to metals and other materials, 85% of materials are currently not being reused or recycled at the end of their life, the NCC said. Unpicking the layers of processed materials and resin in a recycling process is difficult, and current recycling techniques can degrade the material’s performance, reducing their value and offering limited applications. As well as this, more than 95% of composites are made from raw materials and resins that are derived from oil, making them unsustainable, according to the partners.
Plans are for Sustainable Composites to develop new recycling technologies in the UK but also create new sustainable composites made from bio-based materials including vegetable waste, corn, nutshells and algae.
Currently the NCC has created two projects as part of the initiative: the ‘Steam to Value Stream’ project, investigating how an steam process can be used to reclaim resin and fibers from a composite component, and the ‘Bio-Bolster’ project exploring bio-derived resins for high volume manufacturing applications.
‘Composites are already supporting sustainability and helping companies meet their low carbon goals by dramatically reducing weight without impacting their performance, enabling critical renewable energy sources,’ said Ed Goodman, program lead for Sustainable Composites. ‘Composites are making aircraft more fuel efficient, increasing the range of electric vehicles, and helping companies build huge wind turbine blades to power our homes. This initiative will harness our world-leading composites research and technology capabilities to make zero impact composites a reality. And it will ensure the UK continues to lead the way in sustainable materials and capitalise on the huge opportunities for recycling of valuable materials to protect our precious resources for future generations.’
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This story uses material from the NCC, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.