A new recycling technique is doing rounds in the market, capable of giving a new life to broken bicycle frames, used car parts, and twisted aluminium mesh in the form of door and window frames.
New recycling process ShAPE transforms aluminium scrap into building components, promoting 90% energy savings
The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington has developed a new process called Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion Process (ShAPE) that can transform 100 per cent post-consumer aluminium scrap into usable extrusions. Also, the products made out of the process meet or exceed stringent ASTM standards (American Society for Testing and Materials) in terms of strength and flexibility for common building-grade alloys.
The most significant advantage of this new process is that it can save almost 90 per cent of energy when making aluminium building components. PNNL chief scientist Scott Whalen, who led the research, explained: “The ShAPE manufacturing process conserves energy and eliminates greenhouse gas emissions on several fronts. First, we avoid the need to add primary aluminium. Then, we eliminate the need for what is called homogenisation of the billet material, a six- to 24-hour heat treatment near 500°C prior to extrusion.”
PNNL also said, “The ShAPE technology unlocks the possibility of creating circularity in aluminium scrap markets, thus reducing dependency on imported primary aluminium and the massive amounts of energy associated with its production.”
“The manufacturing process deforms scrap aluminium bricks or rod-shaped billets using high shear forces to ‘pulverise’ impurities in scrap aluminium into tiny particles, uniformly dispersing them within the aluminium microstructure.The dispersion eliminates microscopic iron clumps that can generate microfractures in recycled aluminium products manufactured using conventional methods,” explained the PNNL team.
According to Scott Whalen, the new technology ShAPE offers a vast opportunity to decarbonise the building and construction industry. About 55 per cent of the global aluminium extrusion market serves the building and construction industry.