Recycling Technologies

Adherent Technologies, Inc. has developed two distinct technologies for recycling:

  • Vacuum cracking to process polymer-containing waste into raw materials
  • Wet chemical breakdown of composite matrix resins to recover fibrous reinforcements.

Vacuum Cracking Process

Recycling process diagram

Recycling process

Reclaimed fiber

Reclaimed fibers

The vacuum cracking process is a product of our study of tertiary recycling of polymers. By heating plastics in a vacuum we break down solids into liquid raw materials or fuels without the complete gasification observed in classic pyrolytic waste treatment schemes. The production of liquid products enhances the value over strict energy recovery and greatly reduces the need for off-gas treatment. It also allows the use of small, independent units without co-located power generation, and the use of mobile units to treat local, temporary wastestreams — for example in disaster management.

The technology has been successfully demonstrated in our pilot-scale Phoenix Reactor on a number of wastestreams, including mixed plastic waste, electronics scrap, automotive shredder residue, food service wastes, and biological materials from forest service and poultry operations.

In addition to the recovery of liquid products, the treatment in the Phoenix reactor also enables the easy recovery of other valuable components such as precious metals from electronics scrap.

Electronics recycling FAQs

Wet Chemical Breakdown

Reclaimed carbon fiber

SEM micrograph of reclaimed carbon fiber with 0.22% (w/w) residual resin (500x)

In the treatment of carbon fiber reinforced composites, our research showed that the process was sub-optimal in the recovery of reusable fiber. Since carbon fiber, even in the lowest grades, has a value 10 times higher than the recovered oils from the matrix resins, a new process for optimizing fiber quality over fuel yield had to be developed. This culminated in the Jumbo process.

In this wet-chemical treatment, the matrix resin of the composite is broken down in a liquid, producing a very clean fiber under much milder conditions than those found in pyrolysis processes. The process requires only off-the-shelf chemical equipment and scales very well by clustering treatment reactors around central feed and product separation equipment. The carbon fiber recovered has been shown to be 99+% clean fiber retaining 95+% virgin fiber strength.

The process is suitable for all fiber-reinforced composite materials, but so far only reclaimed carbon fiber provides the necessary product sales opportunity to ensure an economically viable operation.

Carbon fiber recycling FAQs