Thermoplastic carbon fiber bike frame

The National Composites Centre (NCC) in the UK has worked with partners to prove that thermoplastic carbon fiber can be used to make an electric mountain bike frame.

Using the material could make the bike easier to repair and recycle at end of life because thermoplastics can be heat softened and re-shaped. Currently, composite bikes are mostly made from thermoset epoxies, which, because they are resistant to heating, cannot be broken down and repurposed in the same way, the Centre said.

The NCC worked with UK bike manufacturer Starling Cycles to design a new frame and also developed a new way to create the lugs required to hold the frame together using a commingled material of carbon fiber and nylon. Commingled materials combine the fiber and resin into a single material, removing the need to separately infuse the resin later in the manufacturing, making it a more efficient process, according to the Centre.

The project is part of Innovate UK, which plans to invest up to £191 million in research and development projects as over the next two years.