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Innovative, EMPHASIZING Project Team Win Industry Awards

Tue, 02 April, 2024

The talented partners behind the Innovate UK funded ‘EMPHASIZING’ project have cause for celebration, having won two notable awards in recent weeks for their research and development (R&D) into creating a new process for the upcycling of reclaimed, glass-reinforced plastics (GRP) from end-of-service wind turbine blades, for subsequent reuse as automotive parts.  

The EMPHASIZING project started in earnest in November 2022 as a result of the partners – Brunel Composites Centre (BCC), established by Brunel University London and TWI in 2016, and part of the TWI Innovation Network, B&M Longworth Ltd, EMS-CHEMIE AG, Ford Motor Company, Gen2plank Ltd and Gestamp, in the UK, who is also a TWI Industrial Member company – submitting a collaborative technology proposal that successfully secured competitive funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency.

The methodology behind EMPHASIZING introduces ‘pressolysis’, a novel recovery method designed to enable commercial innovation through high-yield reclamation of top-quality, clean and free from residue, reusable fibres, with retained length and properties almost akin to virgin materials. Innovative re-sizing will allow these fibres to take on properties similar to carbon and a cost closer to glass.

To date, the EMPHASIZING consortium has made great strides towards achieving the project’s objectives, as acknowledged by the awards they have received. An early milestone was accomplished when partner B. & M. Longworth used their DEECOM® process to reclaim clean glass fibres from decommissioned wind turbine blades, which resulted in an output of 100% glass fibre, completely free from the polymeric residue or debris usually associated with wind blade construction. Materials characterisation by TWI’s Advanced Composites and Adhesives (ACA) section was used to confirm and validate the process.

BCC is now developing a coating system to re-size (upcycle) the fibres, using ultrasonic nano-particle coating equipment, then the reclaimed material from the EMPHASIZING process will be used to make a Ford chassis part. This will be manufactured, together with further design optimisation, prototyping, simulations and testing, by project Technical Manager Gestamp. Ford is leading the lifecycle analysis (LCA) data modelling and characterisation that is required at different manufacturing stages, assisted by BCC, and Gestamp will use their supplier facilities to demonstrate circularity and scalability of the process.

The first accolade for the project consortium saw EMPHASIZING win the Wildcard Award at The Engineer magazine’s eighth, annual Collaborate To Innovate (C2I) Awards. The Engineer is a London-based, monthly magazine that covers the latest innovations in engineering and technology world-wide, and has a history going back to 1856. The C2i Award was collected at The Engineer’s dedicated Awards dinner by consortium representatives from Ford Motor Company, Brunel Composites Centre (BCC) and TWI on behalf of all of the project partners.

EMPHASIZING was then announced as the winner of the 2024 JEC Composites Innovation Award for Circularity and Recycling.  Held annually, the JEC Awards celebrate successful initiatives and collaborative efforts in the composites industry, with judging criteria including partner involvement in the value chain, project complexity, and commercial potential.  Project partner B&M Longworth Ltd represented the project for the Awards, and EMPHASIZING was then promoted at JEC World, the leading, international composites show, on 5-7 March 2024 in Paris, alongside winning projects in other categories.

In commenting on the award wins, Nithin Jayasree, Senior Research Fellow for Brunel Composites Centre, said “TWI and Brunel University London are delighted to be part of such a ground breaking and forward looking project, and to be working alongside the highly experienced and knowledgeable members of the EMPHASIZING team. Ultimately, our hope is that the project will make a significant contribution to industry, and society as a whole, by helping to divert composites from landfill, reduce the carbon footprint from waste incineration and eradicate the need for using harmful chemicals during composites recycling, all in a low cost, low impact and environmentally friendly way.”

Hesam Badri, Research Fellow, BCC with the 2024 JEC Composites Innovation Award for Circularity and Recycling.
Hesam Badri, Research Fellow, BCC with the 2024 JEC Composites Innovation Award for Circularity and Recycling.

BCC’s technical lead on Emphasizing, Hesam Badri, Research Fellow, explained "The novel contribution of BCC to this project is the development of a coating system that employs graphene nanoparticles in order to resize the fibres, with the objective of upcycling them so that they are suitable for semi-structural and structural applications. The coating system utilises the ultrasonic spraying method to disperse the graphene-based sizing solution, employing an ultrasonic nozzle equipped with a vibrating mesh mechanism, which oscillates at high frequency and generates aerosols carrying the nanoparticle. The vibration mechanism acts to evaporate the water within the compound and mitigate particle aggregation, ensuring a homogenous coating across all samples.”

Visit the EMPHASIZING website to keep up-to-date with the consortium’s activities.

EMPHASIZING secured funding from Innovate UK under Grant agreement no. 10035094.

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