Technology readiness level assessment of composites recycling technologies

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Composite materials made of glass and carbon fibres have revolutionised many industries. Demand for composites is experiencing rapid growth and global demand is expected to double. As demand for composites grows it is clear that waste management will become an important issue for businesses. Technically composite materials evoke difficult recycling challenges due to the heterogeneity of their composition. As current waste management practices in composites are dominated by landfilling, governments and businesses themselves foresee that this will need to change in the future. The recycling of composites will play a vital role in the future especially for the aerospace, automotive, construction and marine sectors. These industries will require different recycling options for their products based on compliance with current legislation, the business model as well as cost effectiveness. In order to be able to evaluate waste management strategies for composites, a review of recycling technologies has been conducted based on technology readiness levels and waste management hierarchy. This paper analyses 56 research projects to identify growing trends in composite recycling technologies with pyrolysis, solvolysis and mechanical grinding as the most prominent technologies. These recycling technologies attained high scores on the waste management hierarchy (either recycling or reuse applications) suggesting potential development as future viable alternatives to composite landfilling. The research concluded that recycling as a waste management strategy is most popular exploration area. It was found mechanical grinding to be most mature for glass fibre applications while pyrolysis has been most mature in the context of carbon fibre. The paper also highlights the need to understand the use of reclaimed material as important assessment element of recycling efforts. This paper contributes to the widening and systematising knowledge on maturity and understanding composites recycling technologies.




Rybicka, J., Tiwari, A., & Leeke, G. A. (2016). Technology readiness level assessment of composites recycling technologies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 112, 1001–1012.

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