UL researchers join EU project to make composite materials recyclable

Dr Maurice Collins from UL is leading a team of researchers aiming to develop new sustainable composite materials as part of a pan-European project worth 5.3 million euros.

The University of Limerick (UL) is the only academic partner involved in a project that has the potential to improve the recyclability of composite materials used in construction.

The project, called ‘Vibrations‘is a pan-European collaboration between several industry players from countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Belgium and Germany.

It is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, which funds research and innovation. The project has a budget of nearly 5.3 million euros and is expected to last four years.

Irish society Juno Composites is on board as an industrial developer member. The company supplies carbon fiber sheets and other carbon fiber products which it manufactures at its Irish base.

For their part in the project, scientists from the Bernal Institute at UL are working to make composite materials sustainable and recyclable. Currently, composites are widely used in advanced engineering projects due to their durability and corrosion resistance. They are also lightweight and are often used in the construction of aerospace and electric vehicles.

UL researchers will be involved in the development and testing of new composites for construction, aerospace and naval applications.

According to UL project leader and School of Engineering lecturer Dr Maurice N Collins, “These new composites could eliminate waste in end-of-life composites and create a circular ecosystem for these materials.”

The project approach focuses on the controlled separation and recovery of components from composite materials, through the development of custom bio-based binding materials.

“These new composite materials will be fully bio-based with the recycling technology itself, which will reduce the environmental impact by reducing the use of raw materials, harmful chemicals and landfill,” said Collins.

“Green recycling technology will be designed and implemented as a pilot in semi-industrial environments to separate and recover composite components as new raw materials for new product development,” he added.

Vibes builds on the work done at UL that began with Free, a project that aimed to free the composite industry from its dependence on petroleum-based production.

The university’s research team believe that the knowledge uncovered through Vibes will help researchers, industry professionals, and students in materials science, engineering, and chemistry respond to the growing demand for sustainability in the technology and innovation sectors.

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