Boeing Develops Technologies to Recycle Carbon FibersBoeing Develops Technologies to Recycle Carbon Fibers
June 21, 2010
Boeing, a major player in the high-end compositebusiness, is working on applications and processes to produce a recovered carbonfiber that can be economically re-used in automotive and other applications.
"We have studied and had built tooling that can beutilized in prototype production and proof-of-concept applications," says TomKoehler, communications manager for Boeing Research & Technology. "Boeinghas fielded inquiries from a variety of industries including aircraft parts,filtration, seating and automotive."
Ability to re-use carbon fiber scrap is a major issuebecause carbon fiber is expensive and Boeing will be buying tremendous amountsof the material for its carbon composite aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. Boeingis buying carbon fiber at a cost of $5-$50/lb. At least two-thirds of the fiberends up as scrap. Pyrolysis is used to extract fibers from epoxy matrices.
Potentially less expensive sources of carbon fiber arealso important to the automotive industry, which needs to reduce weight ofcars, but has largely shunned carbon composites because of their expense.
Work at Boeing is too preliminary to establish potentialcosts of the recycled material, which Boeing is designating rCF. Boeingengineers, however, have determined that the properties of the recycled carbonfiber hold up for second-use applications.
"rCF study results, to date, indicate that thereplacement of virgin carbon fiber with recycled carbon fiber does notsignificantly diminish the physical properties of the materials," says Kohler."This is very preliminary work that (we hope) will ultimately enable thediverse use of recycled carbon fiber in high-grade manufacturing applications(such as some aerospace applications) and help quench the arguments surroundingthe diminution of fiber properties with recycling."
Boeing currently does not use any recycled carbon fiberproducts in its manufacturing.
An increasing number of decommissioned aircraft, whichcontain smaller amounts of carbon composites than the Dreamliner, may alsobecome an important source of scrap material. Some estimates place the numberof aircraft that will be retired over the next 20 years at close to 6,000.
Boeing Develops Technologies to Recycle Carbon Fibers_A
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