Impregnability and Performance of rCF-nonwovens with epoxy resin
Currently, the carbon fiber key market increases intensely. In consequence of production, 10–30 % of cost-intensive carbon fiber waste is accumulated by blending fabrics, prepregs which are out of specification and end-of-life products. Because of a landfill ban for carbon fibers, environmental aspects and a cost reduction potential, there is a stronger focus on carbon fiber recycling. Through new recycling methods, the carbon fiber is regained from polymer matrix, but looses its woven structure.One possibility to re-use chopped recycled fibers is through a fiber mat. Carbon fiber nonwovens can be fabricated by a wet-laid process, for example. For recycled fibers without a specific fiber length and sizing, a challenge lies in separating them in dispersion to get homogenous nonwovens and interlink the fibers in the nonwoven. For the first step, stirring and surfactants improve the separation, hydroxyethylcellulose ensures the bonding. Then the nonwoven can be impregnated with thermosets by resin transfer molding (RTM). The University of Applied Science Niederrhein is the first to investigate the whole process chain from handling recycled carbon fibers in order to attain the finished composite. Optical impregnability is inspected and material properties (tensile strength and Young’s modulus) are analyzed and compared to virgin fibers to get information on performance. A density range from 1.18 (5% CF) to 1.4 g/cm³ (40% CF) is very attractive for lightweight constructions as well.
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