Boeing and Oracle Team USA, winner of the 34th America’s Cup, are collaborating to recycle 7,000 pounds of carbon fiber of USA-71, a yacht built for training during the America’s Cup campaign in 2003.
The hull and mast of the racing yacht will be processed and repurposed, a first-of-its-kind effort for what will likely be the largest carbon structure ever recycled, according to Boeing and Oracle Team USA.
The two organizations, working with research partners, will use a technique developed to recycle composite materials from Boeing’s fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner, which is 50 percent composite by weight. Composite materials allow a lighter, simpler structure, which increases efficiency, and do not fatigue or corrode. In yachts, composite construction also provides the ability to develop a lighter vessel that is stronger and stiffer at the same time.
Boeing and Oracle Team USA will work with the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company specializing in repurposing carbon fiber components. In 2006 Boeing began collaborating with the University of Nottingham on carbon fiber recycling and they continue to work on recycling processes and technology to process the recycled fiber into new applications.
USA-71’s hull will be cut into 4-foot sections and the mast will be chopped into manageable pieces before it is processed; about 75 percent of the recycled composites will come from the hull and the remaining 25 percent from the mast.
Boeing and Oracle Team USA say they expect to gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing-grade composite materials in comparison to aerospace-grade and automobile-grade composites. Although the companies have not determined the post-recycling use of the yacht’s carbon fiber, potential end uses include consumer and industrial products.
The America’s Cup partnered with Offsetters Climate Solutions in March in an effort to make the 34th annual sailing event carbon neutral. The San Francisco race, which ended last month, was the first in the America’s Cup history to have an official carbon credit supplier, according to the America’s Cup Event Authority.