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A racing kayak made out of recycled carbon fibre

News International-French

18 Mar 2016

A team of academics is creating a high performance racing kayak out of recycled carbon fibre and entering the International Canoe Race this Easter.

Dr Gary Leeke, who is based at the department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, is leading a team of scientists and engineers to make a kayak out of fibre reinforced composite materials, which is believed to be a world first.

The International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire, finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The race, which has 77 portages, is a test of planning, skill as well as physical and mental stamina.

Gary is a paddler and wanted to showcase that the kayak his team has created, can withstand the toughest of races.

Composites are very difficult to recycle and the team at the University of Birmingham has developed a technique using a process called solvolysis. They have created a material from recycled composites, which is as strong as the original, unmodified material.


Gary, who lives in Worcester, said: "We have been training for a number of weeks on the River Severn and the Kennet and Avon canal. We are hopeful that we will complete the race in good time. The kayak is only two to three millimetres thick. The material is light, extremely strong and hardwearing. It can be used in a huge number of applications as well as high performance sporting goods as demonstrated by our kayak."

The material has been created to illustrate that composites can be recycled and used in manufacturing processes with industry. Recycled composites could have a large part to play in the future of manufacturing within industries such as automotive, renewable energy and construction.

There is a huge need to do this as the majority of composites are currently sent to landfill. This is becoming an increasing burden on the environment and it is expected that by 2025 it will be illegal to send composites to landfill in the UK.

Dr Gary Leeke is part of a project called Exhume which develops new and resource efficient recycling and re-manufacturing processes with industry. Exhume is a partnership between the Universities of Birmingham, Cranfield, Exeter and Manchester and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Creative Outreach for Resource Efficiency (CORE) helps the Exhume project to communicate its work and promotes understanding of the circular economy and resource efficiency to the wider public. CORE helps academics to ‘get out of the lab’.

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