Carbon fiber recycling has garnered significant attention in recent years due to the large volume of manufacturing waste and upcoming end-of-life products that will enter the waste stream as the current generation of aircraft is retired from service. Recycled carbon fibers have been shown to retain most of their virgin mechanical properties, but their length is generally reduced such that continuous fiber laminates cannot be remade. As such, these fibers are typically used in low-performance applications including injection molding, extrusion/compression molding, and 3D printing that further degrade the fiber length and resulting composite properties. However, recent advances in the processing of long discontinuous fiber textiles have led to medium- to high-performance composites using recycled carbon fibers. This review paper describes the recent advances in recycled carbon fiber textile processing that have made these improvements possible. The techniques used to manufacture high-value polymer composites reinforced with discontinuous recycled carbon fiber are described. The resulting mechanical and multifunctional properties are also discussed to illustrate the advantages of these new textile-based recycled fiber composites over the prior art.
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