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Recycled Carbon Fibers Demonstrate Excellent Properties

Recycled Carbon Fibers Demonstrate Excellent Properties

New high-performance structural compounds may soon emerge from a recent compounding collaboration between Boeing and RTP Co., a global compounder of custom-engineered thermoplastics.

Large amounts of carbon-fiber composite scrap are beginning to emerge from the aircraft industry, which has been ramping up carbon-composite content. The biggest new generator of material is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which will be moving into full production mode in the not-too-distant future. It was disclosed at a recent Society of Plastics Engineers meeting that Boeing has enlisted RTP to help find a useful outlet for growing amounts of scrap.

According to an article by Tony Deligio for Plastics Today, Boeing is buying blue-chip grades of carbon fiber at a cost of $5-$50/lb. Kevin Gaw, a plastics engineer at Boeing, says at least two-thirds of the fiber ends up as scrap. Pyrolysis is used to extract fibers from epoxy matrices in a process that can affect the fibers' surface properties.

In a statement to Design News, RTP said it is developing high-performance structural compounds utilizing these reclaimed fibers in a variety of engineered thermoplastic resins including prime, bioplastic, post-industrial and post-consumer recycled feedstock. Initial evaluations showed that mechanical performance of these engineered structural compounds with the reclaimed carbon fiber was excellent.

"One of the goals of this project was to evaluate the use of these valuable materials for our development partner, Boeing," says Dave Sterling, RTP application development engineer.

Eric Lee, RTP structural products manager, added, "By applying RTP Co.'s compounding and formulation expertise we have been able to develop some new high-performance structural compounds for injection molding that have great potential in a number of applications and markets."

RTP's target markets for these materials include defense, aerospace, sporting goods, automotive and industrial.

Boeing says an increasing number of decommissioned aircraft have potentially useful scrap material. Some estimates place the number of aircraft that will be retired over the next 20 years at close to 6,000. A potentially even bigger factor is the ramp-up of the Dreamliner, which was originally expected to become commercial in May 2008. Boeing now hopes the planes will enter service by the end of this year. Production is scheduled to expand to 10 per month in 2013.

Recycled Carbon Fibers Demonstrate Excellent Properties
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