The automotive industry is on the brink of a materials revolution and Connora Technologies, is convinced that the company’s recyclable thermoset technology (Recyclamine®) will be the tipping point.
Awarded with $730K in Phase II funding this October by the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program – Connora Technologies, physician led by CEO, Dr. Rey Banatao and CTO, Dr Stefan Pastine, is poised to launch a new class of recyclable high-performance composites from the laboratory into the high volume automotive market and beyond. Connora’s focus is to enable the cost effective and efficient manufacture of recyclable thermoset composites.
Thermoset composites (thermosets) are already used extensively throughout the transportation, aerospace, consumer electronics, civil engineering and sporting goods industries where superior strength/weight ratios, rigidity, durability and corrosion resistance are prized attributes. Thermosets are rapidly emerging as a vital high performance material and are even starting to replace aluminum and steel in many markets despite the material’s inherent drawbacks: thermoset composites are currently expensive, slow to produce, and intrinsically difficult to repair or recycle. Connora’s SBIR Project aims to address all of those limitations by further developing their Recyclamine® resins for HP-RTM (high-pressure resin transfer molding) applications in automotive.
Connora’s Recyclamine® technology pioneers the cost effective and efficient manufacture of sustainable thermoset composites. End-of-life composites and manufacturing scrap can now recycled in a low temperature solution process that allows for the recapture of the carbon fiber and other valuable materials intact. While existing recycling approaches tend to destroy the value of the composites, Connora’s recycling approach preserves the performance and value of the reclaimed fibers. It is also the first recycling process to reclaim the resin as a high value and reusable thermoplastic.
(l) Dr. Ulhas Bhatt – Senior chemist
(r)Dr. Szymon Kosinski – Director of process chemistry
The composite waste problem is starting to get big and will only get bigger in the coming years – official estimates report that the overall scrap cost in the composites industry is ~$500-$700M per year and post-manufacturing scrap can account for up to 50 percent of the input materials. Add in end-of-life composites and you’ve got an economic/ecological problem that needs to be solved now.
Carbon fiber composites for automotive applications represent an emerging high-growth potential market for epoxy thermosets that provides an intriguing entry point for Connora. As an example – a small volume, composite car line would represent about 400 metric tons of Recyclamine.
“We are well on our way to bridging the adoption gap for the automotive industry.” says Pastine, “When a material can achieve processing efficiency, waste reduction and performance all at a lower price - everybody will want to get on board.”
The SBIR Phase II award will enable Connora to design and synthesize new recyclable polyamine structures that are then formulated with various epoxy resins to achieve the glass transition temperature (Tg) requirements for transportation composites manufacturing. Formulations are optimized for a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process, to meet the processing and cost needs of automotive manufacturers. Auto industry partners are a key part of the process as they will aid in the testing and evaluation of each new formulated material. Doing so will help composite manufacturers meet regulatory compliance for recyclability and manufacturing waste disposal.
As Connora is able to successfully create new recyclable molecules that “mimic” other major industrial classes beyond aliphatic amines the market for these new materials will continue to expand and fulfill the vision of a circular economy for thermoset composites.