Model for End of Life Treatment of Polymer Composite Materials

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: Because of increasing environmental demands, especially on dealing with products end of life phase, product manufacturers and designers must consider the future disposal of their products. For conventional materials like steel and aluminium well-functioning recycling methods exists. This is not the case for structures of polymer composites, which are used more extensively, especially for structures like vehicles and vessels. Several techniques do exist but they are not yet commercially available. The current disposal methods of polymer composites are landfill and incineration.Polymer composites are materials, which consist of several materials like fibre, matrix, and additives. In the form of sandwich constructions also foam core material is added. This circumstance complicates the waste treatment of composite materials. In this thesis a model for assessing possible future waste treatment techniques for polymer composites including sandwich structures is presented. The model is meant to be used as an aid for preparing future disposal for end of life products for planning waste treatment and for facilitating communication in contacts with waste receivers.Recommendations for waste treatment have been formed for a number of polymer composites. These recommendations are based on the analysis of costs and environmental effects and they compare different scenarios for mechanical material recycling and energy recovery by waste incineration. The result of this study points out material recycling as the preferable method for the main part of the studied materials. But this recommendation is strongly dependent on type of virgin material replaced by the recycled material. Energy recovery can also be considered if the polymer composite waste replaces coal, which is non renewable. Though incineration will always result in a cost for the waste producer.In the recommendations mentioned above no information concerning implementation of the different waste disposal techniques is included. Therefore, in this study a model for assessing possible waste disposal techniques for polymer composites is presented. The model is based on internal factors, which are related to the waste and to the processes. To implement the model relevant waste properties must be identified in order to fulfil the conditions set by the required processes involved.A case study was carried out using the proposed model for assessing different waste disposal techniques for the hull of the Visby Class Corvette in the Royal Swedish Navy. Six different techniques were studied for the hull structure. Since almost all the important waste properties were known and the waste was assessed to be treatable all the included techniques except one are shown to be usable in the future.Many investigations have pointed out material recycling as the best alternative considering environmental effects. This is also valid for polymer composite materials. Since recycling polymer composites is a complicated process, especially recycling thermoset composite it is important to aquire comprehensive information about the constituents of these materials.