rGFK goes Trailer

Energy and resource savings towards climate protection require that waste and production residues from glass fibre-reinforced plastic production are reused and not landfilled or used as fuel in an environmentally harmful and cost-intensive way. In the coming years, thousands of wind turbines will reach their end of life and be decommissioned. While the foundations, towers and nacelles can be recycled well, there is still no sustainable solution for the blades; Highlighting a great need for research towards ecologically and economically feasible recycling. This is precisely what the the "rGFK goes Trailer" project addresses. By means of a continuous process chain, from the evaluation and calculation of the materials to be recycled, to the mechanical preparation, matrix development and tests, to the implementation in new innovative sandwich structures and an life cycle assessment, the new material and its application are being fundamentally researched.

The aim is to give glass-fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) and rubber particles from used tyres a second and third sustainable life. A new, lighter sandwich panel solution will be developed from the current waste materials, reducing the consumption of resources and energy in the cargo mobility sector and at the same time, guarantee security of supply in the mobility sector for the future by researching and developing a new material, manufactured in Austria. In addition, the project will investigate how intelligent sensor technology can integrated into the structure, to provide trailer operators with information about load distribution and the capacity.

Lightweight construction with an initially inhomogeneous recycled material would not work without a holistic approach, so the project will embed material research and the development of a new sandwich construction, which will be adapted to the material, in the design of the trailer's substructure. This integrative optimisation of the overall system is supported by innovative simulation approaches, from the material level to the final trailer concept. The goal is to develop a 25% lighter panel structure, made of rGFK, with equivalent mechanical strength, compared to the currently used screen printing panels. The resulting material can be shredded again after years of use and moulded again into a lightweight material for similar applications or e.g. cladding parts to ensure a sustainable circular economy. In addition, old rubber granulate is integrated into the developed top layer to increase safety, as this granulate repeatedly emerges on the surface with wear, thus guaranteeing a permanently slip-resistant surface.

To guarantee the recyclability of the new sandwich panels, they are crushed using a cryogenic grinding process and the individual components are separated and thus returned to the product cycle. The resulting CO2 savings are to be demonstrated via a carefully conducted LCA.