Mechanical Recycling of Automotive Composites for Use as Reinforcement in Thermoset Composites
Palmer, James Alexander Thomas
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The aim of this research was to investigate the potential use of recycled glass fibre composite materials as a replacement for virgin reinforcing materials in new thermoset composites. Specifically the closed-loop mechanical recycling of composites used heavily in the automotive sector known as dough and sheet moulding composites, DMC and SMC respectively, are investigated. The recycling of glass reinforced thermoset polymer composite materials has been an area of investigation for many years and composites used in the automotive industry are of particular interest due to legislative and social pressures on the industry. The mechanical recycling process and then collection of useful fibrous grades of recycled materials, recyclate, by a novel air separation technique were investigated first. The properties of these recyclate fibres were characterised and compared directly with the properties of virgin glass fibres they were to be used to replace. Single fibre tensile tests were employed to compare the strengths of the fibres and single fibre pull-out tests were used to investigate the strength of the interface between the fibres and a polyester matrix. These tests showed the recyclate fibres to be weaker and have a poorer interface with the polyester matrix than the virgin glass fibres. Understanding the properties of the recyclate materials meant their reformulation into new composites could be carefully considered for the production of new high performance materials. Two grades of the collected recyclate materials were then reformulated in to new DMC and SMC composites, replacing percentages of the virgin glass fibre reinforcement. The mechanical properties of the resulting manufactured composites were characterised throughout for direct comparison against one another and an unmodified control material, using both three-point flexural tests and Charpy impact tests. Through the modification of existing manufacturing techniques and the development of novel production equipment it has been possible to successfully manufacture both DMC and SMC composites with the recyclate materials used to replace virgin glass fibres. Virgin glass fibres have successfully been replaced by recyclate materials without disrupting standard production techniques and with minimal reduction of the mechanical properties of the resulting composites. As the loadings of recyclate materials used were greatly increased both the flexural and impact strengths were significantly degraded and it was found that chemical modification of the composite could be used to improve these formulations. It has been shown that the recyclate materials should be considered and treated as a distinct reinforcing ingredient, separately from the remaining virgin glass fibres.
J. Palmer, O.R. Ghita, L. Savage, K.E. Evans. Successful closed-loop recycling of thermoset composites. Composites Part A: Applied science and manufacturing, 2009. 40(4) p. 490-498.
J. Palmer, O.R. Ghita, L. Savage, K.E. Evans. Recyclate fibres – matrix interface analysis for reuse in sheet moulding compounds (SMC). Proceedings of European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM 13). 2008. Stockholm, Sweden.
J. Palmer, O.R. Ghita, L. Savage, K.E. Evans. New automotive composites based on glass and carbon fibre recyclate. Proceeding of International Conference for Composite Materials (ICCM 17). 2009. Edinburgh, UK.
PhD in Engineering