Use of Recycled Carbon Fibers in Sheet Molding Compounds (SMC)
Award last edited on: 8/3/2011

Sponsored Program
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Principal Investigator
Charles L Segal

Company Information

Firebird Advanced Materials Inc

6304-D Westgate Road
Raleigh, NC 27617
   (919) 272-1279
Location: Single
Congr. District: 04
County: Wake

Phase I

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This Small Business Innovation Research Phase 1 project will develop materials processing technologies to effectively utilize recycled carbon fiber (RCF) derived from carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) thermoset wastes as fiber reinforcement in structural sheet molding compounds (SMC). As recycled carbon fibers have different morphologies and properties than the virgin carbon fibers currently used in SMCs, RCF is usually not readily processible in commercial process equipment used to formulate thermoset SMCs with high volume fraction fiber loadings. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new processes and surface treatments that facilitate the reuse of RCF in SMCs. In addition, the full life cycle and recyclability of carbon-fiber-filled thermoset SMCs need to be investigated, so that the carbon fibers can be reclaimed and reused in new SMC products without a loss of performance. In Phase 2 of this project, the lab-scale process and treatment methods developed in Phase 1 will be scaled up to a pilot pre-production scale. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project involves recycling valuable carbon fiber wastes that are currently disposed in landfills to create a recycled raw material product that can be used for transportation applications in a sheet molding compound. By diverting waste carbon fibers from landfills toward useful applications in the transportation industry, substantial quantities of a raw material for sustainable engineering can be produced, benefiting the nation's need for high-performance, green structural materials. Lightweight RCF-filled SMCs can be substituted for metal or fiberglass-filled composites/resins used for transportation, thereby decreasing weight and improving fuel efficiency in automotive applications. In addition, the energy to produce and reuse RCF is much less than that of producing virgin carbon fibers, so the development of RCF applications as a substitute for virgin carbon fibers will provide a net energy savings to the economy. This research project will facilitate the widespread use of recycled carbon fibers by SMC formulators for molding into structural components, thereby increasing utilization of this valuable resource

Phase II

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