The next step in carbon fibre recycling


American aerospace giant Boeing has partnered with universities and a specialist carbon refurbishing operation in what will be the single largest recycling of a carbon structure to date.

The material earmarked for recycling was part of USA-71, a racing yacht purpose-built for the 2003 America’s Cup campaign.

The hull and mast of the yacht, with a mass over more than 3 100 kg, will be cut into sections of just over a metre in length and the mast broken down into pieces of manageable size before processing.

Boeing and Oracle Team USA, the US representative in the world’s most prestigious yacht race, will utilise a technique developed to recycle materials from the 787 Dreamliner. In yachts composite construction provides a lighter vessel than is both stronger and stiffer than one made of traditional marine building materials.

Boeing and Oracle Team USA will work with the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company specialising in repurposing carbon fibre components. In 2006 Boeing began collaborating with the University of Nottingham on carbon fibre recycling and they continue to work on recycling processes and technology to process the recycled fibre for new applications.

All involved in the partnership will gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing grade composite materials in comparison to aerospace and vehicle grade composites. No post-recycling use has yet been finalised for the yacht’s carbon fibre but potential end uses include both consumer and industrial products.