Enhancing material properties of recycled glass fibres through sizing (EMPHASIZING)

Abstract

Composite materials have been used for decades and have found their way into almost every industrial sector, mainly due to their outstanding material properties and lightweight benefits. Today, 2.5 million tonnes of composite material are used globally in the renewable energy sector. It is estimated that there are 12-15 tonnes of glass fibre reinforced plastic per MW of power. Glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) represents the majority of the £54.5billion global market for composites. Over one million tonnes are produced annually in Europe alone, with the construction, infrastructure and transport sectors accounting for almost 70% of that figure.

The growing use of glass fibres has increased concern about their waste disposal methods. Tonnes of composite waste containing valuable glass fibres have been accumulating every year from various applications. It is imperative that composite wastes are recycled using a cost-effective methodology with minimal environmental impact. The wind energy sector alone is expected to decommission 40,000 to 60,000 tonnes of composite materials in the next two years.

The EMPHASIZING project will address the challenge of recycling composite structures that are currently landfilled or incinerated and will develop a viable value chain to exploit the resulting recyclates. Wind turbine blades, automotive and marine parts will be considered, processed and analysed, and the relevant "roadmaps" will be developed and assessed. The consortium will demonstrate the circular economy concept by fabricating relevant automotive end-products made from upcycled glass fibre materials. The methodology proposed by the consortium introduces a technical step change from state-of-the-art processes such as pyrolysis and solvolysis. This, in turn, allows for a commercial innovation; the high-yield reclamation of high-quality, clean, reusable fibres, free from residues and with retained length, properties almost to virgin materials. Composites UK's Vision and Roadmap for Sustainable Composites depicts a future scenario where by 2040 composites to be a 'go to' material in mobility. This includes the transition through another generation of vehicles (c 2030) where composite use has increased, to replace metallic parts, allowing for the 2040 generation where composite materials are widespread as standard materials. The EMPHASIZING solution impact includes the introduction of low-cost high-quality, high yield reclaimed fibres into production, thus supporting the vision for the industry at 2030 and beyond.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

B. & M. LONGWORTH (EDGWORTH) LIMITED £433,520 £ 303,464
 

Participant

INNOVATE UK
GEN2PLANK LIMITED £284,386 £ 199,070
EMS-CHEMIE (UK) LTD £40,454
FORD TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED £141,575 £ 70,788
FORD MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED
AUTOTECH ENGINEERING R&D UK LIMITED £141,476 £ 70,738
BRUNEL UNIVERSITY LONDON £229,710 £ 229,710
TWI LIMITED £150,670 £ 150,670

Publications

10 25 50