New processes give carbon and glass fibres a second opportunity


The MC4 project, in which CIDETEC Surface Engineering participates, will establish processes to achieve 60% recyclability in these materials, strengthening Europe's position in its value chain


MC4 (Multi-level Circular Process Chain for Carbon and Glass Fibre Composites), a European initiative in which CIDETEC Surface Engineering is involved, aims to bring circularity to carbon and glass fibre composites. During the production process of these materials, essential in numerous technical applications as they are light and offer high performance, up to 40% of the product is wasted and, after a useful life of 15 to 30 years, 98% of the material is discarded with no hope of being recycled. With 110,000 tonnes of carbon fibre composite components and 4.5 million tonnes of glass fibre composites used annually, it is critical to explore solutions that lessen the environmental impact.

Without ignoring these environmental concerns, Europe's current competitive position in these value chains, which is heavily reliant on foreign suppliers, must be improved. 80% of carbon and glass fibre manufacturing occurs outside of Europe, and when it does originate within the EU border, the technology is frequently owned by non-EU countries.

MC4 will offer research and innovation measures to provide solutions for recyclability and competitiveness by:

- Establishing a multi-level circular process for carbon and glass fibre composites, with processes developed for short and long term impact on the industry.

- Developing economically viable processes that are tailored to the unique characteristics of the two value chains.

- Providing European industry with the means to master and own its own patented manufacturing processes for recycled materials.

Specifically, the MC4 project will base the development of recycling processes on chemical matrix/fibre separation for carbon fibre and on a new type of resin for the direct re-use of composite material for glass fibre. As a result, and with the use of appropriate quality sorting of the recycled material, MC4 will build processes to achieve a recycling rate of 60% while also ensuring that the recycled materials can be used appropriately in various applications.

To achieve its goals, MC4 brings together 15 partners from across the value chain, including process developers, material producers, or end-users that manufacture composite parts. The pooling of skills and knowledge will allow for the joint development of a sustainable and viable circular composites process. MC4 will end in March 2025.


- Carbon fibres: history, players and forecast to 2020, JEC Composites Publications


- Carbon fibre 2020 (Knoxville, Tenn, US) Preconference seminar by Tony Roberts, AJR Consultancy