Composite materials are sustainable since they have a high lightweight potential and long durability often beyond the average life expectancy of a typical vehicle. However, for a true sustainable material a more comprehensive approach is needed. In order to create sustainable solutions it is central to cycle composite materials in a closed loop. This means not only to recycle the materials and components but also to look at the value chain in a holistic way. Starting by the selection of materials and designing new components will determine the resulting processing technologies and the utilization phase of the components as well as the processes needed to disassemble and sort them at their end of life (EoL). On a material level, the sustainable criteria can be renewable resources such as natural fibers and polymers from green building blocks or even atmospheric CO2 or rather recycled materials such as recycled carbon fibers and recycled polymers. Designing new components, these selections need to be considered but also EoL-strategies for disassembling and sorting of the components and materials need to be planned right from the start. In fact, when looking into new ways to cycle materials it is necessary to find first ways and processes to reuse composite materials and components since it is ranked higher in the waste hierarchy due its lower energy consumption and higher retention of mechanical properties.
Fundamental for all routes is a uniform quality of the material that ensures a reliable performance when used. All these different aspects are part of the research activities throughout the competence fields in the three program areas at the institute.