Oracle Team USA, winner of the 34th America’s Cup, and Boeing are collaborating to recycle 3,175kg of carbon fibre from USA-71, their ACC yacht built for the team's America’s Cup campaign in 2003. The hull and mast of the racing yacht will be processed and repurposed, a first-of-its-kind effort for what will likely be the largest carbon structure ever recycled.
Oracle Team USA and Boeing, working with research partners, will utilise a technique developed to recycle composite materials from Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which is 50% composite by weight and 20% more fuel-efficient than similarly-sized aircraft. Composite materials allow a lighter, simpler structure, which increases efficiency, and do not fatigue or corrode. In yachts, composite construction also provides the ability to develop a lighter vessel that is stronger and stiffer at the same time.
"The introduction of composites in yacht construction was a major step in our sport. The materials and processes have continued to evolve, allowing us to build the high-tech, high-speed AC72 catamarans raced in this year's America's Cup," said Chris Sitzenstock of Oracle Team USA logistics. "Now, we have the ability to work with Boeing to take the next steps in composite recycling, and to help reduce our environmental footprint. We will also look to recycle carbon components remaining from the build of our yachts."
Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of market strategy added: “Boeing leads the commercial aviation industry in increasing the use and recycling of composites to improve aircraft fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are very pleased now to work with Oracle Team USA, which transformed the science of sailing to win the America’s Cup, to advance sustainability and the science of composite recycling.”
Boeing and Oracle Team USA will work with the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company focused on repurposing carbon fibre components. USA-71’s hull will be cut into 4-foot sections and the mast will be chopped into manageable pieces before it is processed; about 75% of the recycled composites will come from the hull and the remaining 25% from the mast.
Through these processes, Boeing and Oracle Team USA expect to gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing-grade composite materials in comparison to aerospace-grade and automobile-grade composites. The companies have not determined the post-recycling use of the yacht’s carbon fiber, but potential end uses include consumer and industrial products.
Launched in June 2002
First America's Cup Class yacht built by ORACLE TEAM USA for training during the 2003 campaign
Boat was a corporate symbol in front of Oracle Corp. headquarters for 6 years
Total hull weight: 2.5 tons
Weight of composites to be recycled: 7,000 lbs. (about 3,175 kg)
Length: 25 meters (120 feet)
Beam: 3.8 meters (12 feet)
Height of the mast: 32 meters (105 feet)
Weight of the bulb: 19 tons
Sail surface area: 325 m² upwind, 750 m² downwind