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Recycling contributes to safer cars

Published: 7 October 2022

Every year thousands of broken composite sticks are thrown away by Swedish hockey clubs. A waste of resources that researchers at Luleå University of Technology are now trying to solve. In collaboration with Luleå Hockey and Gestamp Hard Tech, the possibility of reusing the material for more crash-proof cars is being investigated.

– We want to investigate whether the remains from the club can be used as building blocks in new structures. Above all, we want to investigate whether segments of the clubs can be used to capture energy in connection with vehicle collisions, says Patrik Fernberg, professor at Luleå University of Technology.

Technical marvels

He describes today's clubs as technical marvels where the fibers are placed with minute precision in layers to optimize the response of the structure when it is stretched like an elastic spring in connection with the player firing his shots.

– The problem is that the load that the clubs are subjected to is very high, which means that they actually quite often come off. When they come off they become useless to the hockey player but large parts of the stick are still intact. We are convinced that useful things can be made from the parts that are still intact.

Positive for the climate footprint

In the initial phase of the project, the focus is on material technology benefit for the participating parties, but in the long term there may also be financial and environmental gains for private individuals as well as the sports movement and industry.

– For the hockey clubs, and all parents who buy expensive sticks for their hockey-playing youngsters, it primarily means an opportunity to avoid waste of resources. In the long term, you might be able to imagine some kind of recycling system such as deposit cans, but it is too early to say. For a vehicle manufacturer, the reuse of scrapped sticks can mean that the cost of materials is reduced but also the weight of the vehicle, something that is positive for fuel consumption, range and climate footprint, says Patrik Fernberg and adds that the reuse of sports equipment can be applied much more broadly than just in ice hockey.

– Sports equipment such as ski poles, tennis and padel rackets, bicycles and skis are often made of composite materials and can of course also be relevant for reuse in the future.

In a first step, the researchers are now making an inventory of how different individual clubs of different models and makes differ, both in structure and in properties.

– For example, we plan to crush segments of individual clubs to investigate how much energy is required. Based on our research, we can form an idea about how much variation in properties you can expect when you collect large quantities of different clubs, says Patrik Fernberg.

Per-Emil Back, Director BIW R&D Gestamp HardTech, emphasizes the importance of sustainability and local involvement.

– For Gestamp, circularity is very important, and it is also important for us to be a part of the society where we are active. That’s why we are happy to be a part of this initiative together with LTU, RISE and Luleå Hockey.

The project has received support within the strategic innovation program RE:Source, which is financed by Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and Formas. It runs over a year and participating organizations are Luleå University of Technology, Luleå Hockey, RISE SICOMP and Gestamp Hard Tech.

Contact

Patrik Fernberg

Fernberg, Patrik - Professor

Organisation: Polymeric Composite Materials, Materials Science, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics
Phone: +46 (0)920 492883