“We should be looking for sustainable, circular solutions for every product. Downgrading shouldn’t be the only option for highly engineered thermoplastics and carbon fibres.”

As the operator of the world’s first and largest carbon fibre recovery plant, ELG Carbon Fibre Limited (ECF) Is focused on developing and industrializing conversion technologies for manufacturing recycled carbon fibre products that can be reintroduced to the composites and compounding industries. Through a partnering initiative with the United Kingdom, Mathilde Poulet, Technical Manager at ECF Coseley, West Midlands, UK was recently invited to present a paper on recycled carbon fibre based textile at the Aachen-Dresden-Dekendorf International Textile Conference, ADDITC 2019.ADDITC conference session

The theme of Mathilde’s presentation, Thermoplastic co-mingled textiles for high volume manufacturing – recycled carbon fibre solutions was closely aligned with the established trend in the transport and electronic industries towards the use of thermoplastic reinforced composites in the manufacture of a wide variety of semi-structural and non-structural parts. Mathilde reviewed ECF’s CARBISO™ TM range of nonwoven mat products and their existing applications in the automotive and electronic industries. These products are purely mechanically comingled thermoplastic and recycled carbon fibres nonwovens, whose physical, mechanical and environmental properties can be tailored to a given target application thanks to the availability of a large choice of thermoplastic and carbon fibres.

Nonwoven mats

CARBISO™ TM nonwoven mats are produced with recycled carbon fibres co-mingled with a thermoplastic fibre.

Despite these capabilities and the pre-eminent profile of their recovery facility, ECF does not currently recycle thermoplastic carbon reinforced waste. ECF processes thermoset carbon waste using a modified solvolysis process, during which the former resin and sizing are not recovered. With a keen eye always looking for ways to improve and introduce innovation into its processes, ECF is a proud participant in the MultiCycle project, supporting the development of a solvent-based technology to recover both carbon fibres and thermoplastics from end of life materials. In Mathilde Poulet’s view,

“At a time when humankind is looking to drastically reduce its environmental impact and ‘stop’ climate change, we should be looking for sustainable, circular solutions for every product being manufactured. Downgrading shouldn’t be the only option for highly engineered, high quality materials such as thermoplastics and carbon fibres.”

Against this backdrop, MultiCycle’s ambition and objectives to demonstrate a process delivering more efficient and sustainable processing technologies using plastic waste as feedstocks for the production of added value products were well-received by ADDITC’s diverse industrial and academic audience, and also by delegates at a November 2019 British Plastic Federation Automotive seminar. According to Mathilde Poulet,

“The concept of  closing the loop for high performance materials was very well received on both occasions.”