ELIOT project set to enhance environmental sustainability of aeronautics with new biocomposite recycling methods

The European ELIOT project, coordinated by AIMPLAS and featuring the participation of Dutch research centre TNO, is developing promising large-scale recycling methods for biocomposites, which are now being used in the aeronautics industry. An end-of-life solution for these materials in line with the principles of the Circular Economy will substantially improve the environmental sustainability of the sector.

In view of strong anticipated growth in the coming decades, the aeronautics industry is working to develop promising technologies that reduce its impact on the environment.

High-performance composites have become one of the keys to reducing aircraft weight, and thus fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The sector has also explored the development of biocomposites that use natural fibres as reinforcement and resins from renewable sources.

Despite all the benefits of these high-performance composites, no efficient solutions have yet been found for end-of-life management when these materials become waste. The wide range of different composites and the fact that they are thermoset make it difficult to recover them. This is more pronounced in the case of biocomposites, a new material, which, unlike conventional composites, does not contain carbon fibres with a high market value.

AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, is co-ordinating the European ELIOT project with the aim of developing new cost-effective recycling technologies to guarantee the sustainability of aeronautics components. The project started in July 2020 and will last 32 months. One of the consortium partners is TNO, the Dutch research centre. The project will analyse different recycling methods, including mechanical, thermal, chemical and biological recycling.

In the search for new solutions for recovering biocomposites based on circular economy goals, the project will review current composite recycling technologies to analyse the most feasible alternatives so they can then be adapted to the characteristics of biocomposites and tested to scale in the laboratory. Finally, the project is expected to demonstrate technical feasibility at pre-industrial scale.

The ELIOT project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme within the framework of the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative, under grant agreement number 886416.