Applying high water pressure that will allow the thermoset pieces to be selectively chopped into a suitable dimension for recycling.
Carbonization of the thermoset matrix to reuse the carbon fibers that overcome this chemical decomposition.
Thermoplastic composite's reprocessing process, to detach the panels and reuse them, as they can melt again once consolidated.
Increasing the recycling capacity of aircraft components by 40% and, therefore, reducing the CO2 emissions in aviation.
Optimization of technological processes through the use of intelligent technologies. A robot is mounted on a land AGV system, being easily operated with a dummy tool
Annually, the aeronautical industry is depositing more than 40,000 tons of end-of-life composite material waste in landfills. Thanks to the recovery of materials, the technology proposed by HELACS will benefit the change towards an energy efficiency model.
These days, metal is the main component of aircraft parts but, for the last few years, the aeronautical industry has been incorporating new materials, such as thermoset compounds.
They require a recycling system that allows the extraction of the reusable components (carbon fiber), to produce less waste of this composite material, which is hardly recyclable until now. HELACS offers a technological solution to recycle both thermoset materials and thermoplastics, which are currently booming and are considered to be the materials of the coming future for aircrafts.
HELACS will promote the creation of new recovery ways that maximize the retention of value of the different aircraft components. This means the increase of competitiveness and making it possible for Europe to be at the forefront of dismantling processes worldwide.
Thanks to the revolutionary methodologies that the HELACS Project brings up, the aeronautical industry will be able to find an innovative technological system for dismantling and maintenance of aircrafts in order to give new life to materials, as well as developments and innovations that will be transferable to other industries.
HELACS proposes a dismantling process based on a selective cutting system by high pressure water (more than 4000 bars) that will allow the pieces composed of a thermoset matrix (carbon fiber + epoxy resin) to be cut into pieces. Afterwards, those pieces will undergo a pyrolysis process (heating in the absence of oxygen) by which the matrix will be charred and the carbon fiber which resists the chemical decomposition will be reused.
Beyond the thermoset composite material, there are advanced trials with thermoplastic-based composites that aim to become the key component of the aeronautical parts of the next generation of aircrafts. With the focus on these new materials, HELACS also incorporates a second resistive welding reprocessing technology.
This system makes use of an extremely fine resistive mesh (65 µm) installed during assembly at the junction interfaces between panels. This mesh will help at the disassembly stage to detach the panels, by passing an electric current through this element. Acting as an electrical resistance, this will heat up melting the matrix and allowing the separation mentioned.
This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 101007871
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AITIIP TECHNOLOGIY CENTER
Ivan Monzon (Project coordinator).