World Sailing Trust : alliance to tackle Carbon Fibre circularity

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World Sailing Trust

To celebrate Earth Day, a ground-breaking project sees the launch of an alliance of International Federations, leading sports manufacturers, composite specialists, and academics collaborating to support a demonstration project to reuse and realign carbon fibres.

To celebrate Earth Day, a ground-breaking project sees the launch of an alliance of International Federations, leading sports manufacturers, composite specialists, and academics collaborating to support a demonstration project to reuse and realign carbon fibres.

The Carbon Fibre Circular Demonstration Project is being run by the World Sailing Trust, the charitable organisation affiliated to World Sailing, as part of their Planet key focus area, ensuring sailing has a lasting positive impact and that the planet’s waters are protected and safeguarded.

Supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), multi-sport collaboration has been a key driver of this project – across both International Federations and sports equipment manufacturers with the aim of engaging with equipment end users.

Working with World Sailing and the International Biathlon Union, supported by Wilson Sporting Goods, the alliance includes International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) as well as sports equipment manufacturers Starboard, SCOTT Sports and OneWay, who are collaborating to support an innovative and disruptive programme based on the reuse of carbon components within the sports sector.

The alliance is working with Technical Lead Lineat Composites with assistance from the research department of the University of Bristol based at the National Composite Centre in Bristol, on a demonstration project to show how it is possible to reclaim broken/failed carbon components from a particular sports sector through a novel reclamation process that realigns the fibres into uni-directional prepreg tapes utilising the innovative HiPerDiF process system.

New technical carbon tapes will then be supplied to component manufacturers within the alliance to integrate into new technical components for reuse.  A typical example would take a broken carbon bike component and utilise the fibres to make new tapes and use them in a second life in a carbon ski pole, a sailing component, or a tennis racket

Carbon fibre is a high performing material used in a variety of industries. Weight and strength properties have resulted in the material being widely used in sport equipment, especially in elite level competition. The use of the material is growing, and sport represents the third largest user of the material behind aerospace and the wind turbine industry.

However, carbon fibre cannot be remelted and recycled like aluminium and, to date, no sustainable end of life solution has been available for carbon fibre.

The project looks at taking the broken component, realigning its fibres, and then reusing that carbon fibre to make a new component. The process, not dissimilar to a high-tech paper making process, produces carbon fibre tape that early results from this demonstration project show are, in some cases, better than the original virgin fibre.

The manual R&D machine based at the National Composite Centre allows Lineat Composites and the research team from the University of Bristol, to align carbon fibres manually, but the machine in next stage of the process will allow Lineat to commercialise and align around 80 billion fibres daily, which when placed in a line will go around the world three times.

Dee Caffari, Chair of the World Sailing Trust, comments: “Collaboration and alliance has been a key driver in this project.  We know that sport in general has a very high use of carbon-fibre, particularly within high-end performance sports. However, the usage of carbon-fibre in some other industries is even greater. This demonstration project has been a first step and we are now keen to invite other sports and industries to develop the next stage of this process.”