SBIR Phase II: Long Fiber Thermoplastic Composites from Recycled Carbon Fiber

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase II
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
320 Rutledge Road, Fletcher, NC, -
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Mark Janney
(828) 651-9646
Business Contact:
Mark Janney
(828) 651-9646
Research Institution:

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project will develop long fiber thermoplastic (LFT) compositions based on recycled carbon fiber. In Phase I, we demonstrated the ability to make high quality LFT formulations based on (1) waste carbon fiber and (2) composites scrap and end-of-life thermoplastic and thermoset carbon fiber composites. Mechanical properties of these composites were similar to, and in some cases superior to, those for virgin carbon fiber. In this project, we will continue to develop manufacturing capabilities to make both thermoset and thermoplastic composites. In this Phase II project, we will look at the following technical issues: (1) examining the use of new recycled fiber forms and comparing the results to prior data; (2) investigating the molding parameters associated with the "forging" of flat blanks of LFT; (3) optimizing the LFT compositions; (4) demonstrating consistent moldability and mechanical properties; and (5) demonstrating the conversion of molded LFT parts back into LFT compound to "close the loop" on recycling. This effort will feature partnerships with a not-for-profit composites laboratory and another small business, both of whom have extensive experience in developing LFTs using virgin carbon fiber. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes a reduction in the amount of carbon fiber going into landfills and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide carbon fiber production is ~80 million pounds per year, with demand growing at ~15% annually. Conservatively, 20% of this fiber ends up as waste during composite manufacture (~16 million pounds/year) and is landfilled. The aerospace industry is a main consumer of this material (military aircraft, Boeing 787 and Airbus A380), but industrial, automotive, and recreational markets are also growing. However, few composite manufacturing processes are designed to work with chopped fibers, which is the primary form of recycled carbon fiber. Developing LFTs based on recycled carbon fiber will allow us to achieve "Three Shades of Green" by eliminating landfilling, reducing energy costs relative to virgin fiber, and improving sustainability. A significant business opportunity exists if manufacturing methods can be developed that use recycled fiber in the forms that are typical of reclaimed material. The potential market for composites made from recycled/reclaimed carbon fiber is more than $200 million. Finally, the amount of energy needed to recycle carbon fiber is only about 4% of that needed to make virgin fiber, reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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