Third Consecutive Award for Polymer Engineering Group
After the Delta Award, the greatest award for practice-based research in the Netherlands, and the RAAK Award for the best practice-based research project of SIA, the Polymer Engineering research group of Windesheim University of Applied Sciences has won yet another—and this time international—prize. On 26 April Associate Professor Albert ten Busschen and Professor Margie Topp received a 2022 JEC Composites Innovation Award in Paris at the Journées Européennes des Composites: the world's largest composites exhibition.
In Paris, important players in the field of composites, from industry as well as research, gathered to attend the award ceremony: the prelude to the Journées Européennes des Composites (JEC) composites exhibition. Ever since the first award ceremony more than 20 years ago, the JEC has used their awards to reward successful initiatives that contribute to more innovation in the industry and thus help to shape our future in a more sustainable way. But the award ceremony is more than a just a ceremony; it aims to inspire business and industry through excellent examples and to simulate collaboration along the entire value chain.
Structural Reuse of Thermoset Composites
And one of those excellent examples is the reuse of thermoset composites. The research project for which the Polymer Engineering research group received the JEC Innovation Award in the Building & Civil Engineering category. Because these composites are considered 'difficult' polymers. On the one hand, the light but extremely strong material - a practically unbreakable compound of fibres and resins and therefore weatherproof - lends itself to all kinds of industrial applications. On the other hand, there is a downside. Because a major problem, for which a solution has been sought for more than 30 years, is the recycling of composite. Or, as Albert ten Busschen explains: "Researchers have been trying for decades to recover the original raw materials (such as resin and glass fibres) from this extremely strong material, from which for example wind turbine rotor blades are made, so that they can be reused."
The Windesheim method: hybrid reuse
When Ten Busschen started working for the research group, he was determined to find a solution to this problem: "Then you use wind turbines to produce clean energy, but now that the first generation has reached the end of its life, you can't do anything with those rotor blades," he explains. "How sustainable is that?" The problem was that you cannot separate end-of-life composite into its original components. The fibres are locked up in the synthetic resin. So the research group set to work on a different method: shredding old composite into reinforcing elements. You then put the composite through the shredder to reduce it to long flakes or strips, retaining all its good qualities. And this serves as reinforcing material for all kinds of new, robust products. Using this innovative method, the research group has succeeded in making bank revetments from windmill blades and sleepers for railway tracks from old NS interiors.
Crowning achievement and incentive to keep innovating
This JEC Innovation Award is the third consecutive award for the research group this academic year, and for Professor Margie Topp it is both a crowning achievement and an incentive to continue: "My team works from various angles on projects enabling us to make a real impact: on the world, on industry and on education. We do this by bringing together expertise from different engineering disciplines and combining this with our knowledge of polymers, their properties and our years of experience in the design of all these materials. This is how we develop innovative industrial applications and help the polymer industry to move forward."
The research project on Structural Reuse of Thermoset Composites was co-funded by the National Taskforce for Applied Research SIA.(opens in new tab)