Free to access on EuCIA’s website, the Eco Impact Calculator is an easy to use cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment (LCA) tool which is regularly updated to incorporate materials and process advances. The inclusion of this new carbon fibre data follows the addition of data on core materials and thermoplastic conversion processes last year and is witness to EuCIA’s efforts to satisfy evolving industry needs.
Stabilisation of carbon fibre at the Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University. (Picture courtesy of ITA-RWTH.)
Carbon fibre LCA
EuCIA was prompted to develop an LCA for carbon fibre following a survey of industry, academia and other stakeholders. This LCA for industrial-grade carbon fibre, released in late 2018, was based on an in-depth study of available literature and data for polyacrylonitrile (PAN) available in the ecoinvent 3.1 database. This work was carried out in cooperation with EY Climate Change and Sustainability Services in the Netherlands (EY CCaSS). In a recent cooperation, experiment-based data produced by the Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, and EuCIA’s study were thoroughly reviewed and EuCIA’s initial LCA data adjusted to reflect actual experience of the PAN to carbon fibre conversion efficiency. Both data sets, initial and new, are now available to Eco Calculator users.
Tim Röding, Group Leader, Carbon Fibre Research Group, Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of the RWTH Aachen University, states:“Carbon fibre reinforced composites have attracted a lot of attention as a lightweight material for replacing heavier parts in the transport sector. Making airplanes and vehicles lighter is a very important step that can contribute to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. However, the production of carbon fibres involves very energy-intensive processes. To fully understand the energy-saving effect of carbon fibres and their composites, reliable life cycle assessment data for the entire process chain are indispensable.”
Roberto Frassine, President of EuCIA says:“EuCIA believes that sustainability will be a key driver in the future development of the composites industry worldwide. We would like to thank ITA-RWTH for their help in developing this new carbon fibre data for the Eco Calculator and we welcome the industry’s feedback. We invite organisations wishing to contribute to the further development of the Eco Calculator to contact EuCIA.
The growing importance of life cycle assessment
Customers in all industry sectors are increasingly asking for detailed information on the environmental impact of composite products and components. EuCIA’s Eco Calculator calculates the eco footprint of composites parts using a transparent and uniform sector methodology for processes following ISO 14.040/044. The Eco Calculator calculates the environmental impact of products from cradle to gate, including the raw materials, transport, processing and waste generation up to the point of sale. The calculation of consecutive manufacturing processes is possible as well as modified materials. Users do not need any in-depth knowledge of LCA techniques to use the tool and the data can be exported in the form of an Eco Report to allow full life cycle LCA calculations.
The Eco Calculator incorporates a pre-defined set of materials and processes, based on data EuCIA has collected over the past four years. Users are also able to enter their own data to generate a more precise result for their individual products and processes. The materials and processes included in the tool are under continuous review for quality and consistency, and new data is regularly added to extend and improve its scope and accuracy.
EuCIA’s sustainability experts will be available to discuss this new data in more detail at JEC World 2020 in Paris on 3-5 March.