Environmental sustainability is one of the main challenges faced by today’s aviation industry. Aerospace structures require high strength and stiffness; thus, they have traditionally been made from metals.
However, composite materials are gaining increased use in aircraft and industry to reduce weight, contributing to a significant reduction in fuel consumption and carbon footprint. The use case targeted by MORPHO is a demonstrator named Foreign Object Damage (FOD) panel, a structure representative of an engine fan blade. It is a hybrid material (metal-polymer) where the core body is composed of 3D woven composite, and the leading edge is composed of titanium.
Polymer composites have not only excellent strength and durability compared to weight but also improve quality, and lower manufacturing and maintenance costs. This is why these composites are used in most high-performance engineering applications. But like everything else, not all that glitters is gold.
Polymer composites are very difficult and costly to recycle, so landfilling has historically been the main disposal method for them. Researchers from all over the world are searching for how to reuse this waste in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
The MORPHO’s goal
MORPHO is aiming at recycling 100 % of Metalic and 100% of the Carbon Fiber content of these materials in an existing semi-industrial pyrolysis plant originally designed for organic shredder residue issued from the recycling of metallic waste. In case of success, Comet intends to capture 50% of end-of-life PCMs. Therefore, their global recycling rate will drastically increase from less than 5 % to potentially 60%.
With that goal in mind, a new methodology that combines two innovative processes, laser-induced disassembly, and pyrolysis technology is being developed. The challenge is to evaluate the mechanical properties of materials before and after disassembly to guide resource recovery in the manufacturing process or recycling.
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