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(c) A3/Christian Strohmayr
10.05.2022

Fraunhofer reduces CO2 footprint and recycles trendy lightweight carbon material

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

The wetlaid technology used is one of the oldest nonwoven forming processes (around 140 BC - 100 AD). As an essential industry sector with diverse fields of application, wetlaid nonwovens are no longer only found in the classic paper. Instead, the application areas extend, for example, from adhesive carrier films, and packaging material, to banknotes and their process-integrated watermarks and security features. In the future, particularly sustainable technology fields will be added around battery components, fuel cell elements, filtration layers, and even function-integrated material solutions, e.g., EMI shielding function.

Fraunhofer IGCV wetlaid nonwovens line is specifically designed as a pilot line. In principle, very different fiber materials such as natural, regenerated, and synthetic fibers can be processed, mainly recycled and technical fibers. The system offers the highest possible flexibility regarding material variants and process parameters. In addition, sufficiently high productivity is ensured to allow subsequent scaled processing trials (e.g., demonstrator production).

The main operating range of the wetlaid line relates to the following parameters:

  • Processing speed: up to 30 m/min
  • Role width: 610 mm
  • Grammage: approx. 20–300 gsm
  • Overall machinery is ≥ IP65 standard for processing, e.g., conductive fiber materials
  • Machine design based on an angled wire configuration with high dewatering capacity, e.g., for processing highly diluted fiber suspensions or for material variants with high water retention capacity.
  • Machine modular system design with maximum flexibility for a quick change of material variants or a quick change of process parameters. The setup allows short-term hardware adaptations as well as project-specific modifications.

Research focus: carbon recycling at the end of the life cycle
The research focus of Fraunhofer IGCV is primarily in the field of technical staple fibers. The processing of recycled carbon fibers is a particular focus. Current research topics in this context include, for example, the research, optimization, and further development of binder systems, different fiber lengths and fiber length distributions, nonwoven homogeneity, and fiber orientation. In addition, the focus is on the integration of digital as well as AI-supported methods within the framework of online process monitoring. Further research topics, such as the production of gas diffusion layers for fuel cell components, the further development of battery elements, and filtration applications, are currently being developed.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

Foto: Pixabay
09.11.2021

NGST - Next Generation Protective Textiles

  • Efficient Production of Novel, High-Quality Infection-Protective Textiles

 
Considerable shortages of protective textiles, especially respirators, occurred during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which were exacerbated by the lack of sufficient production capacity in Germany and the EU at the time. Short-term retooling at EU companies as well as importing goods often did not lead to success, as these protective textiles were of highly variable quality, which had a negative impact on safety.

The "Next Generation Protective Textiles" initiative aims to remedy this situation by researching new approaches for the production of high-quality protective textiles.

The "NGST" project is divided into several subtasks
The project includes:

  • Efficient Production of Novel, High-Quality Infection-Protective Textiles

 
Considerable shortages of protective textiles, especially respirators, occurred during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which were exacerbated by the lack of sufficient production capacity in Germany and the EU at the time. Short-term retooling at EU companies as well as importing goods often did not lead to success, as these protective textiles were of highly variable quality, which had a negative impact on safety.

The "Next Generation Protective Textiles" initiative aims to remedy this situation by researching new approaches for the production of high-quality protective textiles.

The "NGST" project is divided into several subtasks
The project includes:

  • qualified selection of basic materials
  • studies on up-scaling to create the conditions for a rapid expansion of production capacities
  • development of novel antiviral coatings
  • comprehensive biological and material science analysis to verify the improved properties and also to open up new methods of quality control.

The protective textiles to be developed in the project have a wide range of applications beyond use in the medical field and in civil protection. In principle, wherever immediate cleaning and disinfection are difficult or special filtration tasks are necessary, such as in mobile or stationary filter systems for air purification or for individual personal protection.

In this project, the Fraunhofer IGCV is researching the development of a manufacturing process for nonwovens as a basis for infection protection and filtration media based on wet nonwoven technology. Compared to the state of the art (meltblown technology), this is potentially characterised by significantly increased production capacities as well as increased flexibility with regard to material variety. The main challenges here are the very high quality requirements based on low basis weights for processing the finest possible micro-staple fibres..
          
Pursuing novel approaches to increase quality and productivity in the production of protective textiles
The aim is to provide optimised nonwoven materials as a starting material for subsequent antiviral coatings, and to assess and demonstrate the high technological potential of wet nonwoven technology in this field of application.

For this purpose, an existing pilot wetlaid nonwoven line was specifically modified on a pilot plant scale. This makes it possible to produce nonwoven materials from micro-staple fibres in the required very high quality in terms of uniformity, basis weight, blending and thickness profile with high reproducibility. A standard PP nonwoven was used as a comparison system, which was produced according to the current state of the art using meltblown technology. In addition to the PP comparison variants, however, the processing of PLA, viscose and PET staple fibres, among others, was also investigated. The focus here is on maximum fibre fineness (microfibres) in each case in order to achieve the largest possible specific fibre surface or effective area in the nonwoven. In order to emphasise the significantly increased flexibility of wetlaid technology, particularly innovative variants based on modified bi-component fibres with maximised fibre surface area as well as split fibres are also being conceptually tested.

In addition to aspects of direct material and process development, the scale of the pilot plant provides a comprehensive data basis for estimating a later scaling up to an industrial series. This should create a technological starting point for the ramp-up of an efficient, national production of fleece-based infection control materials based on wet-laying technology.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV