An EU project is investigating circular approaches for the reuse of composite materials made of carbon and glass fibers. The EU project "MC4 - Multi-level Circular Process Chain for Carbon and Glass Fiber Composites" investigates circular approaches for the reuse of composite materials made of carbon and glass fibers. It develops process technologies and quality assurance methods that enable the economic recycling of carbon and glass fiber components (CFCs and GFCs). The materials in focus are indispensable for numerous technical applications where low material weight and high performance are particularly valued. However, European value chains for carbon and glass fibers need to be optimized in 2 aspects: environmental and economic efficiency.
Currently, up to 40% of the material is lost as waste in the production process (e.g. pre-preg waste in cutting) and after a lifetime of 15-30 years, 98% of the material is sent for disposal with no prospect of recycling. With an annual consumption of about 138,000 tons of carbon fibers and 4.5 million tons of glass fiber composites.
In addition to these environmental issues, Europe's current competitive position in these value chains needs to be improved in order to be less dependent on foreign sources. 80% of carbon and glass fiber manufacturing takes place outside Europe, and when manufacturing does take place in Europe, the technologies are often licensed from other countries
MC4 will focus on various reuse and recycling processes along the composite life cycle. This includes:
• Chemical recycling technologies for economically efficient separation of matrix and carbon fibers,
• Processing technologies for the reuse of prepreg waste from the production flow (e.g. cutting),
• Mechanical recycling processes for components made of glass fiber composites for direct reuse of the materials in new components,
• New resins for better recyclability of glass fiber components,
• Technologies for processing recycled carbon fibers to produce yarns, fabrics and nonwovens for composite components,
• Quality assurance methods for characterizing recycled glass and carbon fibers and the new composites made from them.
The consortium includes 15 partners from 7 European countries. Process developers, material producers, composite component manufacturers as well as end users cover the entire value chain.
The Saxon Textile Research Institute (STFI), Chemnitz/Germany, contributes its competences in the field of processing and recycling of carbon fibers and carbon fiber composite components in different work packages of the project.