Polymer composites are extremely lightweight materials made from a plastic matrix that holds together a fiber reinforcement that carries the load applied, and ensures the final product performance. Several thousand tones of carbon fiber reinforced polymers from end-of-service airplanes, cars and other large structures are being dismissed and categorised as waste every year.
The SEEDS project is part of the current effort at LTU, to promote a sustainable production of composite materials. If high performance materials such as carbon fiber can be recoveredand reintroduced into the manufacturing process, a circular system is built. Using pyrolysis, a thermal recycling treatment, the polymer matrix is burnt leaving the carbon material untouched. Recovered fibers can then be again used as a single reinforcement or mixed with virgin carbon fibers and/or natural fibers in infinite combinations. Natural hybrid composites are commonly used in the transportation sector to make interior parts such as door panels, dashboards or inner shells on planes and trains. However, they can also be converted into furniture (e.g. chairs, tables, bathtubs, and bath floors) or even other objects of daily use like helmets and briefcases.
The use of recycled materials in combination with natural fibers guaranties a lower environmental impact while solving the waste disposal problem since landfilling is currently the most common option worldwide. The final aim is to create a circular system that can expand into several loops depending on the intended applications of the newly manufactured parts. In theory, recycling and remanufacturing cycles can be reproduced infinitely thus creating truly circular economy with high efficiency.
This is an inter-disciplinary project within LTU based on collaboration between subjects of energy, bio-nano and polymeric composite materials with participation of Kentaro Umeki, Linn Berglund and Patrik Fernberg.