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March 2006 edition

Researchers propose solution for recycling carbon fibre

By Cristina Elizetxea

Increasingly, manufacturers will be held accountable for the recovery and recycling of waste materials resulting from the production of aircraft parts.

The Metallurgical Research Association of the Basque Country in San Sebastian, Spain, has been investigating the best method of recovering carbon fibre from recycled composite structures. Cristina Elizetxea, from the transport unit of Fundacion Inasmet - Tecnalia, presents her findings.

The use of composite materials in the aeronautical industry has grown steadily since the 1970s, when they began to be used in the American commercial aviation market to replace metals, largely due to their ability to reinforce in preferential directions, their high stiffness and specific strength, and improved fatigue and corrosion performance.

Nowadays, the main reasons justifying their use in this sector focus on reducing the structural weight of aircraft, reducing the number of assemblies needed in the aircraft structure (to avoid riveted areas) and the reduction of maintenance operations during the life of the aircraft.

However, they do have certain limitations restricting their use, such as the high cost of the raw materials and labour needed to manufacture large parts, the need for long lead times combined with design complexity and the difficulties involved in obtaining the obligatory material certifications. The balance between the advantages and disadvantages of these materials means that they currently account for approximately 20% of....

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