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Asahi claims closed loop for carbon fibre

Recycling technology for inexpensive, high-quality raw material.

18th January 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Tokyo, Japan

Sustainable, Transport/​Aerospace

Asahi Kasei, together with the National Institute of Technology at Kitakyushu College and the Tokyo University of Science, has developed a new technology for recycling carbon fibre from automotive composites.

Carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRPs) are highly attractive for various industries in demanding application fields the company says, due to their unique balance of rigidity, mechanical strength and light weight, especially compared with conventional glass fibre reinforced plastics (GFRPs). However, CFRPs are expensive and challenging from a recycling perspective, as it is difficult to extract the carbon fibres from the resin at end of life. 

The carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastic unidirectional (CFRTP-UD) tape. © Asahi Kasei

Unlike carbon fibre that is chopped up during other recycling processes, Asahi’s newly-developed method allows the fibre to be extracted seamlessly, resulting in continuous strands which have properties identical to virgin fibre.

It is based on an electrolyzed sulphuric acid solution that retains the fibre’s original strength and continuous nature, while fully decomposing the resin it is embedded in. This allows for its continued use in high-performance applications and presents an inexpensive, circular solution to the end-of-life dilemma of carbon fibre plastic compounds. In addition, Asahi is developing a carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastic unidirectional (CFRTP-UD) tape based on both recycled continuous carbon fibre and the company’s Leona polyamide resin.

© Asahi Kasei

With a higher strength than metal, this CFRTP-UD tape can be applied to automotive frames and bodies, further enabling the recycling of end-of-vehicle-life parts into different, new parts. The company is aiming for practical application by around 2030.

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