In a new study, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have found have found an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to recycle carbon-fiber composites – stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum – into new materials just as strong as the originals. According to Wei Zhang, CU-Boulder associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, recycling the team’s carbon-fiber composites simply requires soaking the composite in an organic solution at room temperature.
“That’s it,” Zhang said in a February 15 press release. “It’s really energy-efficient and eco-friendly.” Zhang refers to it as “an energy neutral closed-loop recycling process” that could easily be scaled up.
Although the process may sound simple, Zhang calls his team’s treatment of CFRP “unprecedented,” considering both the fabrication of the new material and the recycling are energy-efficient, comparatively fast, and could potentially address barriers to wider uses in manufacturing.