European project seeks reusability of thermoset composites by means of plastic degrading enzymes generating reusable by-products

The Aragon-based technology centre Aitiip is coordinating the Bizente research project, which involves 10 partners from five countries and a budget of 3.18 million euros
Up to 40% of emissions could be reduced by applying this technology to thermoset plastics, which would no longer end up being burned or buried in landfills, as it is now
the case Industries such as aeronautics – with 12,000 aircraft awaiting withdrawal from service-, construction, automotive or wind industries will benefit from this initiative

Zaragoza, 20th May 2020.- The breaking down of about 27.5% of plastic waste from thermoset composites which have reached their useful life cycle, and cutting down 40% of emissions into the environment by means of enzymes in order to obtain reusable products thanks to an efficient and sustainable process; this is the main objective of the Bizente project. The Bizente project is a pioneering project funded by the European Union within the 2020 Horizon Initiative, under the coordination of the Aragon-based Technology Centre Aitiip. The overall budget for this study - encompassing 10 partners from 5 countries and 50 professionals- is 3.18 million euros, including 2.5 million from the European Commission. Its estimated duration is 48 months, from May 2020 to April 2024.
The Bizente Project rises up to the sustainability and circular economy challenges the EU faces.

Currently there is no final solution for the reusability of thermoset composites: these are either stored in landfills while a solution to valorisation and further reuse is found, or end up being incinerated, causing a negative environmental footprint and harmful effects on public health.

Thus, in the aeronautic industry alone there are over 12,000 aircraft about to be withdrawn for service after reaching the end of their useful life cycle containing between 20% and 40% of composites, a percentage which can reach 70% in the latest aircraft models. This problem affects other sectors such as the railway, construction, automotive, power, electronics or sport equipment industries.

This is the first project funded by the EU using enzymes to deal with composites once they have exceeded their lifespan. The Bizente technology is used for the controlled biodegradation of thermoset materials by means of enzymes (organic molecules capable of triggering chemical reactions), which is a new solution involving the application of a bio-catalytic process to a new type of feedstock, i.e. three thermoset resins (epoxy, polyester and vinyl ester) which had not been previously tackled in the value chain of plastics. This innovation opens up new markets and business opportunities for the treatment of plastic waste and provides a new life for products valorised after their biodegradation.

Bizente project´s specific solutions, with international impact, will entail wealth and employment growth. In this regard, partners in the Bizente project will create 16 direct jobs once the project ends, while its socioeconomic contribution might entail up to 1,800 indirect jobs in the sectors of the value chain involved: waste management, biotechnology (enzymes), chemical and composite transformation sectors. These figures can be drawn from the current positive impact that the bio-economy and the circular economy are having on the local economies regarding employment, a boost that would occur in the composites sector, with an estimated 15% growth in jobs involved in recycling and waste management in the next 15 years.

The Bizente project involves a range of work packages, ranging from environmental assessment (involving the social and economic prospects) to dissemination and social awareness raising, through definition of business strategies, staff training, health and safety on toxics, and the meeting of regulations. In addition, it involves professionals from the engineering, chemistry, biology and environmental sectors, among others. This way, partners in the Bizente project cover all the links in the chain involved in this interdisciplinary project, from lab tests to its practical implementation in the industrial sector.

The coordination of the project falls to the Spanish entity, Aitiip Technology Centre, a private foundation involved in R&D&I in materials and processes oriented to society and industry alike, with a wealth of experience regarding both participation in and coordination of European projects. Other institutions and companies party to Bizente are: University of Cádiz (Spain) and Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) as research centres; Evoenzyme (Spain), European Composite Recycling Technology (Denmark), Specific Polymers (France) and Biosphere (Italy), as companies with R&D capabilities; and Teruel Airport, Acciona Construcción and Aernnova, all of them from Spain, as end-users of Bizente technology.

Teruel Airport immersed in a European project to improve the environment

The European project seeks a solution for the composite polymers used in aircraft

After the selection of the project by Europe, work is being done on the preparation of the necessary documents so that, in summer, the subsidy is confirmed Governing Council of Teruel Airport

Teruel Airport participates in the European H2020 BIZENTE project focused on solving the end-of-life problem of thermosetting composite polymers that make up aircraft by introducing biodegradable materials. The objective of this project is to reduce, by up to 40%, the materials that must be incinerated or taken to landfills. The proposal for this project, which is presented to the Horizon 2020 program: Research and Innovation Framework Program, has just passed a new stage and is already in the preparation of the agreement, and all the necessary documentation, so that it can be confirmed , in summer, this subsidy. It involves 9 entities from Denmark, Holland, France, Italy and Spain. This is a project with a total amount of 3,182,571 euros of which Europe will finance up to 2,509,342.3 euros and a duration of 48 months.

The technique, in addition to being applied in the aeronautical sector, also seeks to move to the field of automotive, renewable and industrial energy systems.

The Consejero of Vertebration of the Territory, Mobility and Housing, José Luis Soro, stressed that “Teruel Airport is committed to R + D + I and its presence in those actions that serve for sustainable development and the vanguard in terms of environment". These types of projects "also place us on the international map in the field of innovation and aeronautics and, of course, within an area as specific as the recovery of aircraft materials."

For his part, the General Manager of the Teruel Airport, Alejandro Ibrahim, said that “the part of the Teruel Airport, with airport personnel that will focus on the project, has been quantified a total of 139,250 euros of which a total of 111,400 euros will be subsidized by Europe. The role of the Teruel Airport will have two routes, on the one hand, analyzing the market and seeing which pieces are more recommended to propose the most appropriate valuation routes and, on the other hand, as a space for the development of some of the pilot tests.

This project involves: AITIIP Foundation, Evoenzyme SL, Technische Universiteit Delft, European Composit Recycling Technology, Specific Polymers, Biosphere SRL, University of Cádiz, Teruel Airport, Acciona Construcción SA, Aernnova Engineering Division SAU.

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Source: Heraldo de Aragón 8/11/19

The Consortium of Teruel Airport is determined to diversify activities in the facilities apart from maintenance, parking, aircraft recycling, rocket engine testing, general aviation or air works. Therefore, in the coming months, will be carried out the construction of four new logistic warehouse and two new hangars, in order to facilitate the installation of potential customers related to the aeronautics and, in particular with the aerospace sector, including the storage of aeronautical parts, aircraft painting and executive aviation.

The first logistics ship with a surface area of 900 square metres and a height of up to 6 metres, which will be used for the storage of aircraft parts and for the non-destructive testing of materials and equipment. In this case, its design will allow its modular extension.

The company Tecnología de Firmes, Tecnofirme, executed the project and work file, waiting for it to resolve at the end of the month the public tender for its exploitation by concession for a period of 25 years, extendable for another ten years. The works involved an outlay of 232.500 euros, which will be recovered more than thanks to the annual fee, set at a minimum of 20.400 euros/year, to be paid by the successful company.

At the same time, the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Teruel Airport plans to approve shortly the new tender documents for the construction of three other logistics ships, their access and connections. In this case, of 528 square metres each, and the total tender budget will amount to 450.000 euros. Construction will take place in the southern part of the existing hangars, next to the southeast of the aircraft apron. All three logistics ships will be aligned with the hangar access road and there will be a seven-metre gap between them. The first call for proposals was published last spring for 390.000 euros, but was left empty. Now it will come out again with the budget of 450.000 euros.

The intention is to meet the demand "in aeronautical or aerospace-related activities", although it could also be used, more specifically, "for executive, general aviation and air work".

In parallel, the consortium is proceeding with its plans to build a double hangar with the capacity to house up to two Airbus 380 or six A321/ B737. The company in charge of designing it has already delivered the project. Its 16,200 square meters of surface area will make it the second largest installation in the country and its tender budget will be close to 20 million. After the tender and 20 months of work, it is expected to be put into service in early 2022.

The draft of an aircraft painting hangar with a tender budget of 4.800.000 euros has also been drafted to undertake its construction in order to open a new line of business at the airport.

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