The increasing use of composite carbon fiber reinforcement in the aerospace, automotive, and energy industries suggests a strong increase of the waste of these materials in the coming years, in a regulatory context that will certainly become restrictive in the field of recycling requirement.
However the material recovery of these composite wastes is still a promising field that has not yet been undertaken.
With the aim to position itself as a leading player in recycling, Alpha Composites Recycling devotes much of its resources in recent the past years to develop, in partnership with academic research, an innovative and efficient recycling process able to provide an answer to the problem raised.
The recycling chain currently developed by Alpha Composites Recycling is based on :
- the treatment of composite wastes by the steam-thermolysis technology that is developed over several years by the company and currently industrialized in a suitable form by a sister company (Alpha Recyclage Franche-Comté) in the field of scrap tires recycling;
- the recycling of treated carbon fibers obtained after steam-thermolysis in the manufacture of semi-finished products (compounds, tows, mats…) intended for use in the production of second generation composites.
Our steam-thermolysis technology is the subject of several international patents. It is the result since 2009 of an ongoing partnership with academic research (“Institut Clément Ader – Albi”, “RAPSODEE Centre” of the Engineering School of “Mines Albi-Carmaux”) in the context of several doctoral thesis.
The research and development conducted to date on the application of our steam-thermolysis technology to the treatment of composite materials highlights :
A resin removal rate which is greater than 99% without any surface damage of the reclaimed carbon fiber. See illustration
A full retention of the mechanical properties of the carbon fiber reclaimed after steam-thermolysis, characterized by the means of a reliable test. See illustration
Mechanical properties of thermoplastics composites reinforced with recycled carbon fibers similar to those of composites reinforced with virgin carbon fibers. See illustration
Producers of carbon fibers composites wastes working in the sectors of aerospace (civil or military), automotive, shipbuilding or wind energy.
Carbon fibers reinforced composites wastes from manufacturing cut-offs, production tools or end of life products elements
They consist, as a program supported by the French Ministry of defense and the French Ministry of Ecnomics and Finances, and always with our historic partners, to develop and implement a pre-industrial demonstrator of steam-thermolysis and more generally to confirm the settings of our entire future industrial chain of carbon fibers composites recycling, including the reuse of reclaimed carbon fibers in second generation composites.
This demonstrator will be operational in 2016. It will allow us, operatively and to a semi-industrial scale, to treat composite wastes, to produce significant quantities of treated fibers, and to manufacture small series of semi-finished products (compound, mats, yarn, tows, comingled, knitted fabric..) with recycled fibers.
ALPHA RECYCLING COMPOSITES, an innovative frenchcompany that has developeda recycling process for composite materials based on carbon fiber, announces the entry into its capital of FREYSSINET AERO EQUIPMENT and STS GROUP.
With their knowledge of the aerospace and composite materials sectors, and their industrial know-how, thesetwo partners must accompany ALPHA RECYCLAGE COMPOSITES in the industrialization of its technology.
This fundraising will indeed allow the structure to build a pilot of steam-thermolysisdedicated to the recycling of composites based on carbon fiber. This pilot will have a treatment capacity of 300 metric tonsper year from 2019.
This new phase of development is a continuation of the research work carried out in recent years at the Ecole des Mines in Albi, as part of a joint laboratory. ALPHA RECYCLAGE COMPOSITES has also received the support of the french Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) and the french public investment bank (BPI France).
Download the full press release in PDF (575 Ko) - Click here
At the end of 2015, Alpha Recyclage, Alpha Recyclage Composites, Armines and Mines Albi reinforced their collaboration and laid the foundations for a joint laboratory : Marvapol. After a year of operation, the results are already at the rendezvous and prospects, many.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of their joint MARVAPOL laboratory, Jean-Louis Pech, Head of ARFC & ARC, and Alain Schmitt, Director of Albi Mines, will present Marvapol, its first results and prospects for the 5 Years to come. A cocktail will be served at the end of the visit.
It is this scientific, technological and environmental challenge that is at the heart of the creation of the joint laboratory Marvapol by ARFC, one of the French leaders in tire recycling, and Albi Mines, thanks to the expertise of RAPSODEE, joint research center at Mines Albi, Armines and UMR CNRS 5302 in the area of waste recovery. For recycling, it is necessary to be able to separate and re-use the materials. Until now, ultra-fine particles of carbon black, mainly used as a reinforcing agent in rubber products, were very difficult to isolate and therefore to be recovered.
The method used by Marvapol is vapothermolysis, a heat treatment between 400 ° C. and 800 ° C. in an inert atmosphere under steam. "The process allows valorisation in several forms," says Yannick Soudais, teacher-researcher at Mines Albi, co-chairman of the steering committee and scientific director of Marvapol.
Since its first steps, the new laboratory has already given rise to two doctoral theses and an industrial research contract. It has already gained international recognition by participating in the European Tire Recycling Association (ETRA) in March 2016 in Brussels and has initiated collaborations with the Academy of Sciences of Prague and the LRCCP (Laboratory for Research and Control of Rubber and Plastics).
Armed with these first results, ARFC and Mines Albi agreed on a research program for the next five years, with a reinforcement of human and material resources and the creation of an instrumented pilot of vapothermolysis. The objective is to develop this process of vapothermolysis and to obtain a better understanding of the physico-chemical phenomena involved in the recovery and reuse of carbon black.
Focused on tire recycling, this research also has applications for the reprocessing of composite materials and carbon fibers. Alpha Recyclage Composites - a sister company of ARFC - is also involved in this joint laboratory process to treat waste from carbon fiber composite materials, using this same vapothermolysis process.
Again, the research expertise of Albi Mines, thanks to the Albigensian component of Clément Ader Institute (UMR CNRS 5312) in the field of composite materials, will be valuable for Alpha Recycling.
Using the Steam-Thermolysis to recycle carbon fibers from composites wastes
Alpha Composites Recycling present in an article published in the 100th issue of JEC Magazine, experimental results concerning the use of steam-thermolysis for the recycling of carbon fiber composites. This article shows that the thermochemical process of steam-thermolysis recovers carbon fibers which are then suitable for manufacturing new thermoplastic composite materials. It further shows that the second generation composites manufactured with recycled fibers have mechanical properties comparable to composites manufactured with virgin carbon fibers.
Article in PDF (3.2 MB) - Click here to read
After several years of academic research in partnership with the Clément Ader Institute and the Mines Albi-Carmaux engineering school, the French SME Alpha Recyclage Composites (member of the Aerospace Valley cluster) has started a development program with the same partners.
Currently the aim of the company is to demonstrate the preindustrial feasibility of steam-thermolysis technology applied to the treatment of waste materials containing carbon fibre, it is also to define the manufacturing process of semi-finished products using recycled fibres and to validate the conditions of re-use of these treated fibres in the manufacture of second-generation composites. This program, which is part of the circular economy logic, is conducted with the joint support of the French Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Economy and Industry. The areas of application covered by this future industrial sector include civil and military aviation and the automotive sector.