Recycled Carbon Fiber Tasty, Less Filling

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer
recycled carbon fiber tasty less filling

A carbon fiber Formula 1 machine can sprint from 0 – 120mph in less than five seconds and survive crashes at 100. Sadly, the price of the hi-tech material is prohibitively expensive, restricted use to racing cars, luxury bicycles, boats and aviation. Now that those planes are getting long in the teeth, a German joint venture named CFK-Valley Stade reckons it can recycle carbon fiber (CF) from old Airbus frames for automotive applications. The project involves 77 (count ’em 77) research institutes and a major waste disposal company. Dow Chemical will be joining CFK-Valley Stade to build a plant to recycle more than 1k tons a year, starting (you guessed it) 2010. The exact chemical process is complex/boring, but the CF is shredded and subjected to pyrolysis. The fibers are then isolated and combed. The finished product is sub-aviation quality, but a lot cheaper. For cars, recycled CF may be used for interior parts, gas pumps, body parts or exterior mirrors. A VW spokesperson says at the expected lower price, CF will drift from its present applications in the company’s Bugatti and Lamborghini brands down market, to VW (SEAT?). Is this the antidote to the sad tendency of car companies to think thin, but build fat?

Martin Schwoerer
Martin Schwoerer

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  • Shaker Shaker on Sep 03, 2008

    It sounds like a fairly energy-intensive process to recycle this stuff, so the "going price" is pretty much tied to energy prices, eh? Still, better to reuse the shortened fibers, but I wonder about their strength in larger panels (i.e. hoods).

  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Sep 03, 2008

    "Is this the antidote to the sad tendency of car companies to think thin, but build fat?" No. The OEMs have not thought thin for the last couple of decades. Their cars have grown progressively longer, wider, and heavier. Their solution to their engineering problems seems to be bolt a turbo charger on to it. For them, carbon fiber is lipstick on a pig.

  • Ctoan Ctoan on Sep 03, 2008

    Shaker: The hood isn't stressed. It doesn't matter how strong it is.