Marine applications offer special challenges to composite manufacturers, and the ante is only upped when recycled fibers are used. A UK company and boat team are working together to develop a more suitable future for composite boatbuilding.

ELG Carbon Fibre, formed in 2011, operates what it says is the world’s first and largest carbon fiber recovery plant in Coseley, West Midlands, UK. While it has been part of German holding company Haniel Group since 1982, in December 2018 Mitsubishi Corporation entered into an agreement to acquire 25% of the shares in the company from ELG Carbon Fibre International GmbH.

ELG’s main focus is to reprocess surplus carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) materials from manufacturing operations and end of life parts using a pyrolysis process (thermal decomposition of material in the absence of oxygen). The aim is to develop and industrialize the conversion technologies it uses to recycle the carbon fiber products for both the composites and compounding industries. In March 2018 ELG increased the capacity of its UK facility to recover fiber from uncured prepreg and laminate feedstock. It also intended to commercialize the company’s Carbiso™ MB product line for reinforced thermoplastic compounds.

In 2018 ELG also upgraded its pyrolysis furnace to increase its output capacity beyond the current 1000 tons of carbon fiber per year. It is now reportedly able to deliver 1700 tons of carbon fiber products to its customers from its UK plant.

Recently, the company worked with INEOS Team UK, a British sailing team based in Portsmouth, to use ELG’s recycled carbon fiber in the team’s America's Cup 75 class (AC75) boat, a 75 ft monohull with foils and a ‘soft wing’ mainsail which will compete in Auckland, New Zealand, in the 2021 America’s Cup.

This article appeared in the November–December 2019 issue of Reinforced Plastics. Log in to your free materialstoday.com profile to access the article.

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