Dyneon GmbH in co-operation with InVerTec and the University of Bayreuth has developed an innovative new technology for recovering about 90 percent of the monomers split from fluoropolymers during manufacturing and ‘up-cycling’ them back into the manufacturing process. Closing the fluoropolymer recycling loop is a major breakthrough in respect to true sustainability for these precious materials which are indispensible in a range of industrial applications such as linings in the chemical industry and automotive parts. In recognition of this, the project was funded with a €1 million grant from the German Bundesministerium für Umwelt’s.
Dyneon has joined forces with the University of Bayreuth’s materials processing department and the associated Institut für Werkstoffverarbeitung e.V., a process-engineering institute, to design and build a demonstration plant that will be operational in Gendorf in September 2014. Together, they have engineered a model plant that uses a carefully designed and controlled multistage pyrolysis process in a fluidized bed reactor.
The process integrates seamlessly into existing fluoropolymer production lines. The pyrolysis decomposes perfluorinated polymers, with a very high recovery rate into gaseous monomers, which are cleaned before being fed back into the manufacturing process.
Enormous potential for environmental protection
As well as saving valuable resources that would be needed to produce monomers for the manufacture of fluoropolymers, the new process drastically reduces waste and emissions as demonstrated by Dyneon’s laboratory test results in figure 2.
Project scope and technical challenges
Dr. Klaus Hintzer, 3M Corporate Scientist, explains: “There is no question that this project’s technical challenges are enormous, but they are minimal in the light of the realisation of what it means to the sustainability of fluoropolymers. And it’s only the beginning.”
This first industry-scale high temperature fluoropolymer recycling plant is expected to process 500 metric tons of fluoropolymer waste generated from Dyneon’s plant and other sources in the first year.
Initially, the plant will process fully fluorinated polymer materials, such as waste streams, off-specification materials, PFA and FEP and unfilled PTFE, scrap sourced from moulding, sintering and machining operations. In a later phase, it will process PTFE compounds containing different types of fillers.