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Smart magnetic nanoparticles: an innovative solution for the recycling of composite materials

In the exciting world of composite materials based on thermosetting resins, the search for sustainable end-of-life solutions is a constant challenge. The Aitiip Technology Centre is researching the synthesis of chemical additives that respond to thermal stimuli to facilitate the decomposition of the resin in controlled chemical reactors. This process allows the separation of the fibres, usually glass or carbon, from the rest of the resin and the reuse of both components as demonstrated in the VIBES research project.

The Dilemma of Thermoset Composite Materials

Composite materials based on thermoset resins, such as epoxy resins, are widely used in aerospace, automotive and construction applications due to their high strength and rigidity. However, when it comes time for disposal, these materials present a significant challenge. Thermoset resin is difficult to recycle due to its irreversible nature and resistance to thermal degradation.

The Magnetic Nanoparticle Revolution

In the framework of the IPPT_TWINN project in which Aitiip participates with the Faculty of Polymer Technology of the University of Slovenia, the smart magnetic nanoparticles developed have been subjected to a magnetic field and have experienced a change in response. But how does this apply to the recycling of composite materials?

Efficient Pretreatment: Magnetic nanoparticles are integrated into the thermoset resin before curing. When it is time to recycle the material, a magnetic field is applied. This induces a controlled breakdown of the polymeric network, facilitating the separation of the fibres (usually glass or carbon) from the rest of the material.

Accelerated Solvolysis: This breakdown of the material's chemical structure serves as a pre-treatment to facilitate chemical solvolysis, allowing for faster decomposition of the resin. This speeds up the recycling process and reduces the amount of waste.

Potential Use of Magnetic Fields: The collaboration between Aitiip and the Faculty of Polymer Technology at the University of Slovenia seeks to determine whether these particles can further improve the efficiency of the chemical solvolysis process. If proven effective, this could be a revolutionary solution for the recycling of composite materials.

Smart magnetic nanoparticles

Dr. Klementina Pusnik, an expert in nanomaterials, has been instrumental in the design and synthesis of these nanoparticles. Her research stay at Aitiip allowed the successful integration of the particles into epoxy resins. Characterisation tests are currently underway to assess the impact on the properties of the system.

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