Researchers at the University of Colorado have discovered how to recover carbon fiber composite material that has outlived its usefulness in a manner that is economically and environmentally feasible.

The process to recycle carbon fiber composites.The process to recycle carbon fiber composites. Carbon fiber composites are used because of their high strength and low weight. But their life cycle has often ended in landfills. That’s because few processes have been able to break down the glue that holds the material together without creating potentially toxic waste in an expensive and high energy manner.

The university research team found a way not only to break down the glue, but also maintain the fiber’s qualities. Researchers found that by soaking the composite at room temperature in an organic solution, they could recover both the glue and the carbon fiber and achieve 100 percent recyclability of the material.

Further, the researchers say they have found that the reclaimed material holds the same strength to weight ratios and is easier to fabricate than the original piece. While a typical CFC may take up to an hour to cure, the recycled material can be formed in around 60 seconds. The team says their process to reclaim composites may open the door to even wider use of CFCs.

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