The objective of this statement of need was to identify and initiate development of sustainable materials and processes to enable recertification, reuse, and recycling of composites to reduce waste, as well as environmental and worker exposure to dangerous chemicals and particulates that could be generated during such an operation. Of particular interest were composites solutions that would reduce the environmental impact of composite material waste, including, but not limited to:
- Best practices in composites use to minimize waste.
- Identification of alternative uses of scrap and expiring materials to produce materials with as high a value as possible.
- Improvements in methodologies, including live databases of composite materials, to share expiring materials across the Department of Defense to minimize buys and waste.
- DoD platform approved protocols to assess the shelf-life of a composite material beyond its expiration date and method to adjust the composite processing to adjust to the current state of the material to produce materials with similar properties relative to virgin materials. Material examined must be an expensive or highly used material in the DoD. Integrated computational materials engineering protocols to assess the impact of the material state and derive adjusted processing conditions is expected. This re- certification methodology must ultimately be <$1000/lot in order to be viable.
- Development of methodologies to produce high performance composite materials whereby recovery of the fibers and polymer is possible using a non-ambient stimulus.
- Development of methodologies to safely handle and reuse and recycle composite materials and maximize their value for future applications use.
- Development of novel narrow-band cure materials that are completely stable at room temperature or freezers and require attainment of specific conditions to progress cure.
A preliminary lifecycle analysis to assess cost, health, and environmental impacts of the proposed approach should have been included as a task in proposals.
Funded projects will appear below as project overviews are posted to the website.
The goal for research in this area would be a reduction in lifecycle costs associated with the manufacturing and repair of DoD weapons systems. These are significant DoD problems that are applicable to all composite repair facilities across the services and its manufacturers. The environmental costs associated with disposal of toxic waste is significant, and it has been reported that millions of pounds of waste associated with the composite manufacturing process could be recycled.
DoD and composites manufacturers waste a significant amount of their composite materials during manufacturing and repair. Much of the waste is scrap material that is too small or has the wrong form factor to enable use in a given composites line, leading to disposal of it as waste, while other scrap materials are used in lower performance application, thereby reducing their value. A significant amount of material is lost to shelf-life limitations. Some shelf life issues are likely due to conservative resin/pre-preg manufacturer estimates of the stability of the material rather than a true material-state assessment. When in situ sensors are used to assess and control the extent of cure, some of the composite material is wasted during the process and manufacturing is more difficult. Whereas we have looked at a number of alternative composite materials and resins based on biological or environmentally sustainable materials, we have not yet investigated improved methods for reducing scrap wastes for DoD relevant systems.
To meet the objectives of this SEED SON, proposals should not exceed $200,000 in total cost and approximately one year in duration. Work performed under the SEED SON should investigate innovative approaches that entail high technical risk and/or have minimal supporting data. At the conclusion of the project, sufficient data analysis should be available to provide risk reduction and/or a proof-of-concept. SEED projects are eligible for follow-on funding if they result in a successful initial project.