CORDIS - EU research results

Holistic processes for the cost-effective and sustainable management of End of Life of Aircraft Composite Structures

Project description

Robots and optimised recycling processes yield high-quality carbon fibres for reuse

Carbon fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRPs) are the most commonly used aerospace composites, and they can account for more than 75 % of a modern passenger airliner's volume. Recycling these materials at end of life is not only good for the planet, but it could be quite beneficial for the aerospace industry if high-value recycled carbon fibres are produced. The EU-funded HELACS project will develop an innovative portable robotic platform for the disassembly of CFRP composites and optimised pyrolysis technologies for recycling for improved carbon fibre yield and quality. In addition to improving recycling, the technologies will enhance worker safety and create new jobs.


HELACS will be based on i) previous results of end of life aircraft management projects (such as PAMELA or AIMERE), ii) the review of recommendations and standards for aircraft disassembly and aircraft materials recycling (such as the developed for the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association - AFRA) and iii) the experience and support of the biggest Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) entity in Europe, Teruel Airport (PLATA), to implement a cost-competitive and energy efficient solution for dismantling and recycling Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) components.
To do this, stakeholders of multiple areas of the aircraft designing, manufacturing and recycling value chain will collaborate during the project, through a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach.
Thanks to this multiactor approach, HELACS will properly include the European Industry necessities when the current dismantling and recycling processes will be improved to properly manage CFRP components, now and in the future, by transferring innovative technologies and systems in two main pillars:
• Flexible and Portable Robotic Platform with machine learning capabilities and dedicated tools for CFRP cutting and debonding
• Recycling and valorisation technologies based on optimised pyrolysis processes for improving carbon fibre recycling yield and sizing formulation for improving carbon fibre functionalities
During HELACS, these processes will be developed, validated and demonstrated in the Teruel airport facilities to improve the recyclability of CFRP components by 40%, increase workforce safety and satisfaction by 70%, allow the value retention of recycled carbon fibres by 85%, reduce the CO2 emissions by 50% and increase the profitability by 30%. Finally, the exploitation and dissemination of HELACS results will mobilise more than 30 € million and generate more than 750 new direct jobs by 2030 by transferring the new dismantling and recycling processes to the European Aeronautic value chain.


Net EU contribution
€ 973 500,00
50720 Zaragoza

See on map

Noreste Aragón Zaragoza
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 973 500,00

Participants (3)