Carbon fibre recovery takes off
The Hera Group, through its subsidiary Herambiente, and Leonardo, through its Aerostructures Division, will work together to research the recovery of carbon fibres in polymer matrix composite materials used in aircraft parts.
Thanks to the innovative plant built in Emilia-Romagna by the multi-utility and the know-how developed in the Leonardo Group’s laboratories, the precious material will be recycled with positive spin-offs for sustainability and circularity.
This marks the start of full-scale testing of a future industrial carbon fibre recovery activity in the aerospace sector using advanced technologies that permit its reuse as a secondary raw material.
Through its academic and industrial partnerships, over the years, Leonardo has developed in-depth expertise in recycling materials and processes and, aided by the waste recycling expertise of Herambiente, Italy’s leading operator in the environmental sector, is engaged in closing a circular industry-wide supply chain in this strategic sector.
Technological research and innovation are the enabling factors for creating circular business models in line with the Leonardo Group’s sustainability strategy and international multilateral commitments. Circular models and practices are becoming increasingly key to competitiveness by supporting innovative processes and the ability to attract talent.
The agreement is strategically significant since Europe is very much lacking in virgin carbon fibre production. Thus, developing supply chains capable of regenerating valuable resources locally will help support the process of European industrial self-sufficiency.
Leonardo’s Aerostructures Division will give Herambiente some of the waste fibres from constructing the components of some of the best-known civil aircraft in the commercial aviation sector. To mention a few examples, the stabiliser of ATR turboprops, the fuselage and horizontal stabiliser of the Boeing 787 or, again, the tail planes of the Airbus A220.
At the innovative plant under construction in Imola, near Bologna, Herambiente will subject this waste to pyro-gasification, and the (gasified) composite material resins will be separated from the carbon fibres using hot technology. This process, developed with the help of the Department of Industrial Chemistry of the University of Bologna and Curti SpA of Castelbolognese, near Ravenna, will regenerate fibre with performance comparable to new, also based on studies on the subject carried out by Leonardo.