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Recycling Process for Aircraft Plastics and Composites.

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Final rept. May-Nov 93,

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A noval low-temperature catalytic recycling process as been investigated for use in reclaiming plastics and composite materials. The plastics and composites were selected to be representative of those used in Air Force aircraft and munitions. Results show that all types of plastics, thermosets as well as thermoplastics, can be converted in high yields to valuable hydrocarbon products with this novel catalytic conversion process. Conversion times are rapid and the process is closed and, thus, nonpolluting. Additional tests on used plastic blast media, a hazardous waste stream, and composite materials demonstrate the utility of the low-temperature catalytic conversion process. Catalytic conversion of used plastic blast media removed the organic components and reduced the volume of hazardous material by a factor of 5. In that form, the remaining heavy metal oxides can be resmelted, eliminating the hazardous waste stream. Epoxy, polyester, imide, and engineering thermoplastic composite matrices are converted into low molecular weight hydrocarbons leaving valuable fibers behind that can be reused to fabricate additional composite materials. Economic projections show that a recycling plant based on this process will pay for itself in one to two years. A related technology has been demonstrated on a large scale 100 tonsday for recycling used tires, which shows that there is a high probability for success with large-scale tertiary recycling of plastics and composites.

Subject Categories:

  • Aircraft
  • Laminates and Composite Materials
  • Plastics

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