In a new development, scientists at the University of Sydney have found the way to process carbon fiber. This method is poised to reduce the price of materials by 70% and carbon dioxide emissions by 90-95% as compared to traditional means of manufacturing.
Worldwide, steel is one of the most widely recycled materials. In fact, most materials are fairly easy to recycle, with infrastructure and systems in place for their recycling. On the other hand, carbon fiber and other composites are different. Firstly, carbon fiber can’t be melted and remould into something else. Moreover, carbon fiber is not uniform and is usually composed of actual carbon and resins. Lastly, carbon fiber accounts for lot of waste that are left during the manufacturing process.
Meanwhile, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites used in a range of applications are non-biodegradable. Carbon fiber composites are available in huge sheets that are used to cut different sizes, resulting in large offcuts. Besides this, carbon fiber can wear out or break how it is sometimes seen Formula 1 cars break into many pieces after a crash.
While carbon fiber reinforced polymers can be recycled, the methods currently used reduces their physical and mechanical properties. What did scientists in Australia come up with to solve this problem?
The solution involved designing a two stage process in order to result in a very strong and eco-friendly material. Initially, during the process, carbon fiber reinforced composites undergo a process called pyrolysis. This involves breaking of the material using heat, wherein the material is charred and prevents it from creating a bond with resin matrix. Following this, in the second step, carbon fiber reinforced composites undergo oxidation to remove the char.