Boeing and Oracle’s Team USA are about to embark on one of the largest composite recycling projects ever: repurposing 7,000 lbs. of carbon fiber from the USA-71, which was built for the 2003 America’s Cup.
The companies will work with the University of Nottingham in the UK and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina carbon fiber recycler. Boeing and the university have been working together for several years to develop recycling processes for components of the Dreamliner aircraft.
The composites being recycled in this project will come from the ship’s hull and mast. The boat itself never actually raced, but has been on display in front of Oracle’s Redwood City, CA, headquarters since it was built.
Boeing and Team USA will gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing-grade composite materials versus aerospace-grade and automobile-grade composites. The materials could eventually wind up in consumer products, or wakeboard fins. The recycled material is typically used in low-strength structures for aircraft interiors, automotive finishing, and water recreation items.
Boeing hopes its research will eventually enable it to close the loop on composites, recycling parts from retired aircraft and reintroducing the material back into the aerospace supply chain. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Kowal said that “there is some market for recycled carbon fiber, but it’s not extensive. We’re trying to learn — what else can you do with it? It’s still a science project.”
Watch for Desktop Engineering’s December issue, which will feature in-depth coverage of the simulations used in the design of the boats that raced in the 2013 America’s Cup.
For more information on the material technology behind the boats used in the America’s Cup, including lightweight carbon fiber, check out the video below that features an interview with a builder.