Pan European Networks - Government - page 197

Pan European Networks: Government
Promoting eco-compatible design through life cycle
assessment (LCA) studies
As in other sectors, sustainable development is an issue of central
importance to the aviation industry. Numerous studies predict a
sharp increase in both freight and passenger traffic in the coming
years. In order to reduce the impact on the environment in spite of
the rising volume of traffic, it will be necessary to conduct
research into new, eco-friendly design concepts and to optimise
existing processes. Fraunhofer IBP applies the principles of life
cycle assessment to measure sustainability and identify the
factors and parameters affecting aircraft systems during the three
phases of an aircraft’s life (design and manufacturing, operational
use and recycling or disposal).
Focal aspects and applications of this work include process
analysis and optimisation, the assessment of recycling methods,
emerging technologies and establishing environmental impact at
whole-aircraft or whole-system level. Moreover, the results of such
assessments can provide valuable input for targeted measures
and strategies to improve the environmental compatibility of the
observed systems from the design stage onward.
Electrodynamic fragmentation is used
in a number of processes, for example
in the production of high purity quartz
for the silicon wafer industry.
To enable aircraft designers without specific LCA background to
assess the environmental impacts of existing as well as of
conceptual aircrafts, the web-based ecoDESIGN® tool ENDAMI
was developed with an easy-to-use interface.
More than just waste: the end of the life cycle
Recycling is an issue that is also high on the agenda of
Fraunhofer IBP’s concrete research laboratory. Recycling is one of
the most serious problems facing the aviation industry because
the proper disposal of end-of-life aircraft continues to pose
tremendous challenges. To tackle this problem, researchers at
Fraunhofer IBP are working on technologies to recycle aircraft
modules and components. In the future, for example, aluminum
waste from retired aircraft could find a new use in autoclaved
aerated concrete. This type of concrete is widely used in housing
construction on account of its superior insulating properties. By
recycling the metal from end-of-life aircraft, the researchers aim to
develop a substitute for the pure aluminum traditionally used in
the manufacture of porous concrete. The use of aluminum alloys
has no detrimental effect on the quality of the cellular concrete.
And it offers numerous advantages – as well as enabling scrap
aluminum to be reused in high-value products, it also reduces the
amount of energy required to manufacture porous concrete,
compared with the use of pure aluminum, and thus lowers not
only the cost of raw materials but also the production costs.
As well as aluminum scrap, the aviation industry will also be
seeing increases in another waste product in the future: aircraft
manufacturers are increasingly replacing metals with carbon fibre
reinforced plastics (CFRPs), which are lighter, yet exhibit similar
mechanical properties. However, no cost-effective solutions are
currently available to recycle CFRPs. Consequently, they are still
processed using energy-intensive methods such as high-
temperature pyrolysis or, alternatively, broken down by mechanical
means. However, only the first of these two processes is capable
of recovering the fibres.
To improve this situation, scientists at Fraunhofer IBP are
investigating the possibility of enhancing a technique originally
used by mining companies. Electrodynamic fragmentation is
used in a number of processes, for example in the production
of high purity quartz for the silicon wafer industry. The technique
is based on the principle that ultrashort underwater pulses can
selectively fragment solids by exploiting the fact that lightning
discharges tend to run along phase boundaries. An electrical
lightning bolt produces shock waves with a force comparable
to that of a TNT explosion, causing the disintegration of the
composite into its constituent components. This enables the
fibres to be preserved and reused.
A further advantage is that this technique requires considerably
less energy than other fibre-preserving techniques. Research into
electrodynamic fragmentation in this new field of application is
still in its infancy, but Fraunhofer researchers are determined to
enhance the process in order to drive forward the search for an
economical means of recycling carbon fibre reinforced plastics.
Ecolonomy remains the primary focus in both this and many
other areas of research.
John Cullen Simpson
Director General, Aviation
Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP
tel: +49 8024 643-271
DressMAN 2.0 in action: The special climate measuring system developed by
Fraunhofer IBP enables researchers to compare different climate scenarios
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