Life Cycle Assessment of Carbon Fibers Recycling – Comparison of Emerging Processes

Life Cycle Assessment of Carbon Fibers Recycling – Comparison of Emerging Processes

Baptiste Pillan, Philippe Loubet, Dieuwertje Schrijvers, Guido Sonnemann

Université de Bordeaux, France; CNRS, France

Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) consumption has been increasing over the past decade in sectors such as aeronautic, aerospace, automotive or wind energy. The trend also predicted to increase in the future, inevitably there will be a large amount of waste from the CFRP manufacturing process and its use to deal with. This urges for the need to establish and implement a sustainable recycling sector focusing on carbon fibers. With this context, the SEARRCH (Engineering Sustainability Assessment Research for Composites with High Recycled value) project aims at defining a list of Key Sustainability Performance Indicators (KSPi) inherent to the CFRP recycling industry in order to help stakeholders make their choices easily. As research partner of SEARRCH project, in this abstract we focus on the life cycle assessment of different end of life management route.

The recycling of carbon fibers reinforced plastics answer to a need linked to the end-of-life management of products composed of those fibers. Indeed different sectors like the automobile have specific regulations for this stage of the life cycle. Indeed the directive 2000/53/EC imposes a reuse, recycling and recovery rate of at least 95% by mass for each vehicle. However, the recycling of CFRPs is not only motivated by regulations, in fact reducing production costs and preserving the mechanical properties of fibers are also important challenges. Presently, different recycling processes are used, the main one being pyrolysis. Since mechanical recycling involves the grinding of CFRPs, it therefore does not make it possible to recover single fibers and causes significant fiber damages. However, new recycling processes such as solvolysis in supercritical water medium or electrodynamic fragmentation, are under development.