Carbon fiber from the aircraft industry can be reused

Recycling carbon fibre – a piece of Boeing in your car

Jennifer Weitbrecht
2 minutes

Soon excess material from the aircraft industry could find a new purpose. Boeing is collaborating with the British company ELG Carbon Fibre on a new way of recycling carbon fibre from the aircraft industry.

435 tonnes of waste every year could be saved

Up to now it has not been possible to recover and reuse excess carbon fibre from the aircraft industry. As it has been specially modified for the aircraft industry, it is not suitable in this form for other purposes. Unfortunately, large volumes of waste are generated from this material during the production of aircraft. Boeing expects that the new method could save some 435 tonnes of waste every year.

The process was developed by ELG Carbon Fibre and means that it is now possible to release the adhesive from the carbon fibre by heating it. This recovers pure fibres, which then meet the requirements of other industries. This ultra-lightweight and durable material could be reused, among other things, for automotive components, rail parts and home electronics devices, such as laptops.

Recycling carbon fibre – successful trial

Boeing announced last year that the initial trials have been successful. Over 18 months, Boeing succeeded in saving 172 tonnes of material at the Boeing plant in Everett (Washington State). A large volume of excess material is generated in this plant in the production of wings for the 777X, material that can now be used for another purpose.

According to Boeing, it has set itself the target of reducing solid waste by 20 percent by 2025. The company will therefore expand this collaboration in future to eleven production sites.

Recycling carbon fibre makes sense – for everyone

Using lightweight materials in mass production offers massive environmental and economic opportunities – less waste, lower demand for raw materials and significant cost savings. Ultimately, ELG Carbon Fibre naturally also stands to benefit and is currently increasing its workforce from 39 to 112.

Other industries, including the automotive and rail industry, can also profit from this development as it makes the use of carbon fibres more cost-efficient. The fibres reduce weight, increase payload and improve efficiency, not least due to lower fuel consumption.

Recycled carbon fibre in aviation and aerospace

In the past, recycled carbon fibre could not be used in aviation and aerospace, however its use is now envisaged in cost-effective lightweight solutions for structural components, like seats, overhead bins and tool moulds.

by Jennifer Weitbrecht

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