Korean Institute Develops the Most Efficient Way to Recycle Carbon Fiber Yet | Be Korea-savvy

Korean Institute Develops the Most Efficient Way to Recycle Carbon Fiber Yet


The team, led by Dr. Ko Moon-ju of the Jeonbuk Institute of Advanced Composite Materials (under the auspices of KIST), developed a chemical technique that processes CFRP waste using water and other additives to extract high-value carbon fiber. (image: KIST)

The team, led by Dr. Ko Moon-ju of the Jeonbuk Institute of Advanced Composite Materials (under the auspices of KIST), developed a chemical technique that processes CFRP waste using water and other additives to extract high-value carbon fiber. (image: KIST)

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Korea Bizwire) – Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer, or CFRP, is an extremely durable light plastic, and its use has spread across various manufacturing industries, from aviation and automotive, to sports and audio equipment. But despite its impressive properties, CFRP is infamous for its complex disposal and recycling. 

While high-temperature processing to reclaim carbon fiber was commonly used with CFRP in the past, the procedure required excessive amounts of energy, produced toxic byproducts, and reduced the overall quality of the recycled end-product. And since CFRP is not biodegradable under natural conditions, the ground burial disposal of used of CFRP was also off the table. 

Under such circumstances, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) announced Tuesday that one of its research teams had developed what is to date by far the most efficient way to recycle the material.

The team, led by Dr. Ko Moon-ju of the Jeonbuk Institute of Advanced Composite Materials (under the auspices of KIST), developed a chemical technique that processes CFRP waste using water and other additives to extract high-value carbon fiber. The processing cost, according to the team, is 1,500 won ($1.34) for every kilogram of CFRP, which is about 40 percent of the cost of conventional high-temperature processing, and it’s the world’s most cost-effective method yet. 

The researchers noted that because the new method uses water, less energy is required, and there are no environmental implications. In addition, the initial investment required is only one tenth of the alternatives, and the equipment’s expected maintenance costs (20 years standard) are only one fortieth of what’s needed for high-temperature processing. 

“The conventional technique only allowed one to acquire carbon fiber from the CFRP, but our new technology also allows for the extraction of another industrial material, epoxy, making it much more efficient,” said KIST. 

Dr. Ko has high hopes for the new process, and expects the technology to be exported to related industries overseas. 

“The technology is ready for industrialization right now, and I hope it’s transferred quickly to domestic carbon fiber enterprises in the near future.”

On August 25, the institute will host an information section along with domestic carbon fiber companies, in which the team will present an in-depth explanation of the technology for its potential transfer.

By Kevin Lee (kevinlee@koreabizwire.com)

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