Novel project addresses recycling of composites structures
The Innovate UK funded EMPHASIZING project: Enhancing Material Properties of Recycled Glass Fibres Through Sizing, targets the wind energy-to-automotive sectors to address the challenge of recycling composite structures currently consigned to landfill or incineration.
TWI Industrial Member Gestamp, in the UK is one of the innovatively minded companies making up the project consortium for EMPHASIZING, with their involvement on the project the latest in a succession of successful previous collaborations with TWI. Gestamp is a multinational specialised in the design, development and manufacture of highly engineered metal components for top vehicle manufacturers. It develops products with an innovative design to produce lighter and safer vehicles, which offer improved energy consumption and a reduced environmental impact. Gestamp is continuously innovating in product/process and material development, and sees hybrid material structures as an important milestone in developing advanced technological parts for application on future OEM platforms. Also on the consortium, and additionally having worked with Gestamp on a previous collaborative project, is Brunel Composites Centre (BCC), a Brunel University London-TWI Innovation Centre that was established in 2016, and specialises in novel composites processing and joining technologies applied to industrial environments.
Composite materials are found in most industrial sectors, mainly due to their outstanding material properties and lightweight benefits. Today, some 2.5 million tonnes of composite material are used globally in the renewable energy sector. Glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) represents the majority of the £54.5 billion global market for composites, and it is estimated that there are 12-15 tonnes of GRP per megawatt of power. Over one million tonnes of GRP are produced annually in Europe, and the growing use of glass fibres across industry has resulted in increased concern about how the associated waste is disposed of. One example is the wind energy sector, which is expected to decommission 40,000 to 60,000 tonnes of composite materials in the next two years. Therefore, it is vital that composite waste is recycled using a cost-effective methodology with minimal environmental impact.
This was the thinking that led to BCC AND TWI’s Advanced Composites and Adhesives (ACA) section conceiving the initial idea that would subsequently evolve as the EMPHASIZING project. Once BCC and TWI had formed the project consortium, they asked TWI’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) team to assist with the different stages required to move EMPHASIZING from a technical concept through to a live project. TIM’s remit includes: scanning potential grant (public) funding calls (competitions) and matching them to new concepts; bringing together SMEs, larger companies and research and technology organisations (RTOs) with TWI’s Technical sections, Innovation Centres and Industrial Members, onto project consortia with complementary skills, knowledge and expertise; and supporting consortia members through the concept development, proposal writing and bid submission stages, as required.
For EMPHASIZING, TIM discussed the concept with the consortium partners and identified the funding call, reviewed and quality checked their proposal document, and undertook submission of the final proposal to the Innovation Funding Service portal. Following their application to an Innovate UK Smart Grant competition, the consortium was successful in winning funding for the project.
The project partners are Lead Partner B. & M. Longworth (Edgeworth) Limited, EMS-CHEMIE (UK) LTD, Ford Technologies Limited, Gen2plank Limited, Gestamp, the Brunel Composites Centre (Brunel University London) and TWI.