Material cycles are the basis of a sustainable economy - nature leads the way. Reuse, recycle and re-purpose are the guiding principles.
Substitution of Rare Earths in New Materials
The production of high-tech lightweight components using additive manufacturing requires ultra-high-strength alloys. The A3-4AM project is creating a new generation of aluminum alloys for additive manufacturing using the powder bed process (selective laser melting, SLM), without critical raw materials such as rare earth metals, and at a much lower cost than commercial alternatives in the high-performance sector.
Process Adaptation for Recycled Materials
Many packages in the food and pharmaceutical sectors are made of aluminum foils or Al-layer composites. The reasons for this are the extremely thin walls of the foils, their good formability, corrosion resistance and low weight. For disposable packaging products, the question of environmental compatibility is crucial. Whether aluminum is a sustainable material is determined by whether primary aluminum or recycled aluminum, which requires 95% less energy, is used. The switch to recycled aluminum requires an adjustment of the manufacturing processes.
Material Recycling of Prepreg Scrap
The challenge in the material recycling of thermoset prepreg waste is that the heat generated during shredding makes the material sticky. Together with our project partners, we have developed cost-effective recycling process chains that allow automation of the shredding of the waste into snippets. New semi-finished products or components can be produced by directly pressing these snippets. The feasibility of shredding the waste into snippets and processing them into new components was thus demonstrated.
Reuse of Abrasive Grains
Worldwide, an estimated 2'700'000 tons of grinding sludge are produced, a mixture of abrasive material, abrasive grains and cooling lubricant. While the reprocessing of chips in machining with a defined cutting edge, for example milling, is well established, grinding sludge has so far been pressed into briquettes and put into land fill. In addition, most grinding grains are hardly or not at all worn and could be reused. Therefore, there is an economic and ecological potential of processing and reusing grinding sludge. The project is developing the necessary process chains for a wide range of applications.
Cobalt Recovery from Li-Ion Batteries
In recent years, the number of user-friendly, small, mass-produced electronic devices with Li-Ion batteries and short lifetimes has grown rapidly. This is a major challenge for the recycling industry, as separating the batteries from the rest of the device is a dangerous manual process with a fire hazard. For this reason, only the valuable precious metals are usually recovered through pyrolysis. Other critical battery materials such as cobalt are lost in the recycling process. This project elaborated a new technique for the mechanical disassembly of small microelectronic devices with Li-Ion batteries, which allows a better recovery of the containing valuable materials.