The aviation industry generates millions of pounds of waste each year from its production lines. Boeing is experimenting with composite materials in aircraft sidewalls and more to reduce waste and find a new purpose for the materials on retired airplanes. Implementing carbon fiber recycling to make other products would be an excellent approach to bringing carbon composites into aviation.
In This Article:
- Carbon Fiber Recycling and EcoDemonstrator Program
- Carbon Fiber Recycling for a New Type of Sidewall
- Carbon Fiber Recycling for Self-disinfecting Lavatory
- Carbon Fiber Recycling for Laptop Cases
Find Out Boeing’s Recent Progress in Carbon Fiber Recycling
Carbon composite, a durable material consisting of a carbon matrix reinforced with carbon fibers, is recyclable. So when an aircraft is decommissioned or retires, it can be salvaged and reused. The tested composite materials on the Alaska 737-9 MAX are the scraps from the Boeing 777X and Dreamliner production lines.
Carbon Fiber Recycling and EcoDemonstrator Program
Boeing launched the ecoDemonstrator program in 2010 to promote emerging technologies that increase safety and efficiency while reducing environmental impact. Boeing has accelerated innovation since then by bringing promising technologies out of the lab and putting them to the test in the air.
The program has grown to include new features, services, and ways to improve the aviation ecosystem, including technology that recycles more environmentally friendly materials like carbon fiber.
The 2021 ecoDemonstrator program on an Alaska 737-9 MAX experiments on about 20 technologies. One of the projects is to test a cabin interior sidewall made of recycled carbon composite, which can help to minimize noise and waste sent to landfills.
Carbon Fiber Recycling for a New Type of Sidewall
The cabin interior on the Alaska 737-9 MAX is partially constructed using sidewall panels made from recycled carbon-composite material from the Boeing 777X. This innovation in the material for the sidewall panels can reduce the airplane’s weight.
The program’s Chief Engineer, Rae Lutters, claimed that recycled carbon fiber sidewall panels could save up to 13.6 kg per aircraft, resulting in significant fuel savings. Composite materials have significantly reduced the weight of other modern airplanes. Thus incorporating them into the passenger cabin is a perfect choice.
Boeing is evaluating if this new type of sidewall has the same acoustic properties as the newly produced planes and can successfully insulate passengers from noise. This emphasis on the panels’ acoustic qualities is a rare example of high-value aerospace component recycling.
Carbon Fiber Recycling for Self-disinfecting Lavatory
Recycled carbon fiber composite material also appears in Boeing’s self-disinfecting lavatory as one of 53 projects tested in the 2019 ecoDemonstrator program. The toilet uses UV light to eliminate germs in roughly three seconds after each use. It has a moisture-absorbing floor made of recycled carbon fiber composite.
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Carbon Fiber Recycling for Laptop Cases
Boeing has been working with ELG Carbon Fibre, a UK-based specialized recycler, since 2018. ELG receives uncured carbon composites from Boeing to make products for other industries, such as computer manufacture. Dell Computers has been reported to order ELG Carbon Fiber materials to make its laptop cases.
Carbon fiber recycling might be a promising approach to reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. Although carbon fiber is not a new material, manufacturers are still finding the best way to utilize it as a recycled material.
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