The recycling of carbon fiber composites in 2022

The Challenge of Recycling Carbon Fiber Composites


The recycling of composite carbon fiber has become a significant issue, whether for the manufacturers of the material or the essential users such as the aerospace giants, wind power, automotive, sports, leisure, or even construction.

Carbon fiber appeals to many sectors because it offers high strength and low weight. It is making it a unique and high-performance material. These characteristics make this material an ally in the ecological transition by reducing the mass and saving fuel. However, today there is the problem of its recycling. The recycling methods proposed to date: landfills or incineration, are neither economical nor ecological.


Strong growth in the use of composite carbon fiber

Carbon fiber composite materials are becoming more common, and their use grows each year.

The estimation of their production is 20k tons per year. We can add to it 375k tons due to the dismantling of wind turbines over the next 10 years.

While the cumulative carbon fiber composite waste between Airbus and Boeing is estimated at 1.5m tons over the next 50 years (only the usual aircraft life cycles are taken into account for this last figure).

Since 2010, the increase of the overall production of composite carbon fiber waste is over 12% annually. In 2018, this represented 128k tons.

Thus, by extrapolation, it is estimated at 190m tons by 2070.


Current carbon fiber recycling techniques

The leading solutions for recycling carbon fiber in France are solvolysis, thermolysis, and the fluidized bed process. These methods are not very advantageous from an economic and environmental point of view because of their costs and the low reuse of recyclates.

The solvolysis process is chemical process .This technique treats composites matrices with a reactive solvent. Thus, allowing the reformulation of new composites with the recycled fibers. However, depending on the solvents’ dangerousness, there may be an environmental impact.

Thermolysis is a heat-treatment process. In an airtight heated to medium temperature (450 to 750°) oven, the organic matter of the waste decompose into two parts.

The fluidized bed method is a way to incinerate waste in a reactor. The flow of hot air (450°) out of the fluidized bed drive the resin passes into a gaseous state, and then the carbon fibers.


Fairmat, a virtuous recycling solution

Fairmat recycled and recyclable material

Fairmat laminate, finish glossy

Fairmat offers a virtuous solution for recycling composite carbon fiber by creating a new high-performance, recycled, recyclable material.

The base of the innovative recycling process offered by Fairmat is mainly on the transformation of waste into compounds. The preservation of 100% of the mechanical properties of the carbon fibers comes from the cutting techniques defined by AI and carried out by robotic arms. There is, therefore, no degradation of the material and standardization of the quality of the material.

As for the production of plates of this new material, only a cold mechanical action is required without any risk of pollution or any harm to health. The process developed by Fairmat requires only mechanical action, which is energy efficient. Its production does not release toxic gases for the environment.

The recovery of composite carbon fiber waste, its recycling, and its revaluation by offering new applications in various sectors, define the uniqueness of the material.