JEC Award for Polymer Engineering Group Windesheim

After the Delta Award, the greatest award for practice-based research in the Netherlands, and the RAAK Award for the best practice-based research project of SIA, the Polymer Engineering research group of Windesheim University of Applied Sciences has won yet another—and this time international—prize. On 26 April Associate Professor Albert ten Busschen and Professor Margie Topp received a 2022 JEC Composites Innovation Award in Paris at the Journées Européennes des Composites: the world’s largest composites exhibition.

In Paris, important players in the field of composites, from industry as well as research, gathered to attend the award ceremony: the prelude to the Journées Européennes des Composites (JEC) composites exhibition. Ever since the first award ceremony more than 20 years ago, the JEC has used their awards to reward successful initiatives that contribute to more innovation in the industry and thus help to shape our future in a more sustainable way. But the award ceremony is more than a just a ceremony; it aims to inspire business and industry through excellent examples and to simulate collaboration along the entire value chain.

And one of those excellent examples is the reuse of thermoset composites. The research project for which the Polymer Engineering research group received the JEC Innovation Award in the Building & Civil Engineering category. Because these composites are considered ‘difficult’ polymers. On the one hand, the light but extremely strong material – a practically unbreakable compound of fibres and resins and therefore weatherproof – lends itself to all kinds of industrial applications. On the other hand, there is a downside. Because a major problem, for which a solution has been sought for more than 30 years, is the recycling of composite.

he problem was that you cannot separate end-of-life composite into its original components. The fibres are locked up in the synthetic resin. So the research group set to work on a different method: shredding old composite into reinforcing elements. You then put the composite through the shredder to reduce it to long flakes or strips, retaining all its good qualities. And this serves as reinforcing material for all kinds of new, robust products. Using this innovative method, the research group has succeeded in making bank revetments from windmill blades and sleepers for railway tracks from old NS interiors.

The Polymer Engineering research group of Windesheim University of Applied Sciences is developing sleepers for railway tracks from old NS interiors (Photo: Windesheim/YouTube)

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