Chicago headquartered aircraft manufacturer, Boeing [NYSE: BA] and sailing team ORACLE TEAM USA, winner of the 34th America’s Cup, are collaborating to recycle 3175 kg of carbon fibre from the 2003 America’s Cup yacht, USA-71.
The aerospace giant said that the hull and mast of the racing yacht will be processed and repurposed in a first-of-its-kind effort for what will likely be the largest carbon structure ever recycled.
Working with research partners, Boeing said that together with ORACLE TEAM USA, it will utilise a technique developed to recycle composite materials from Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which is 50% composite by weight and 20% more fuel-efficient than similarly sized aircraft.
The projects partners include the UK’s University of Nottingham and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company specialising in repurposing carbon fibre components.
Boeing said that it began collaborating with the University of Nottingham on carbon fibre recycling back in 2006, and that the university has continued to work on recycling processes and technology to process the recycled fibre into new applications.
According to Boeing composite materials allow a lighter, simpler structure, which increases efficiency, and do not fatigue or corrode.
In yachts, composite construction is also said to provide the ability to develop a lighter vessel that is stronger and stiffer at the same time.
"The introduction of composites in yacht construction was a major step in our sport. The materials and processes have continued to evolve, allowing us to build the high-tech, high-speed AC72 catamarans raced in this year's America's Cup," said Chris Sitzenstock, ORACLE TEAM USA logistics.
How to recycle
Boeing explained that in order to recycle the material, USA-71’s hull will be cut into 4 foot (1.2 metre) sections and the mast will be chopped into manageable pieces before it is processed.
Around about 75% of the recycled composites will come from the hull and the remaining 25% from the mast.
The company added that it expects to gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing-grade composite materials in comparison to aerospace-grade and automobile-grade composites.
While the post-recycling use of the yacht’s carbon fibre has not yet been determined, Boeing said that potential end uses include consumer and industrial products.
"Now, we have the ability to work with Boeing to take the next steps in composite recycling, and to help reduce our environmental footprint. We will also look to recycle carbon components remaining from the build of our yachts," commented Sitzenstock.
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