Our story begins in 2004, when engineers at our sister company B&M Longworth (Edgworth) Ltd received patent protection for their invention DEECOM®, a revolutionary method for reclaiming high value industrial stainless steel (st st) polymer filters using steam to depolymerise polyester melt and reclaim a pristine filter for multiple re-use. DEECOM® changed the way our customers handled component cleaning by discarding of the need for solvents such as harmful and costly tri-ethylene glycol (TEG) and was low in environmental impact, using pressure, super critical steam and emitting only water vapour (H2O).
In 2010, while working with Prof Peter Millington of UMIST we found that a side benefit of this process was the reduction of the polymer ‘waste’ by volume of up to 98% and were advised to explore other applications for the technology as a reclamation for value waste streams.
After research trials into the reclamation of carbon fibre from aerospace grade composite waste for Boeing in 2011 proved successful (Clemson University stated that DEECOM® fibres were ‘pristine’ and difficult to distinguish from virgin), we were advised to file for a 2nd patent in various regions worldwide, based on the use of this technology for waste management.
Late 2017 saw the first patent granted in China, followed over the next three years by remaining countries and regions around the world.
And so, in 2018-19 came the partnerships with carefully selected industry leaders and institutions we needed for the true R&D of our world-beating technology, along with another couple of patents pending.
2022 saw a proposal approved by the BSI for a new British Standard for the recognition of pressolysis as an acknowledged method of reclamation for challenging value materials. 2023-24 will see the creation of this standard along with proposals for European and ISO standards to follow.
What is DEECOM®?
Invented in 2004, DEECOM® is an established and proven technology in several countries around the world for reclamation of polymer filters and high value manufacturing components. In 2011 we began to apply this theory to other reclamation challenges and in 2022, it was commercialised for the composites industry.
DEECOM® is a novel, exciting innovation that uses a thermo-cyclic form of ‘pressolysis’ to reclaim value waste streams from challenging thermoplastic and thermoset polymers. In its basic form, DEECOM® relies on super critical steam and swings of compression and decompression to attack the surface area of organic material and cause a physical ‘fracturing’ of the polymeric contaminant. This polymer, in the form of yarn, resin, binder etc, is then removed from the underlying component (this can be a metallic part, carbon fibre, glass fibre, or other polymer.
At Longworth we’ve spent decades developing and understanding DEECOM® and its capabilities. Following years of research and partnerships with academic and industry partners, we’re now sure of what DEECOM® is NOT;
In 2022 we began work with the British Standards Institute to propose Pressolysis as a new recycling methodology, based on the definition;
pressolysis; the reduction of a material to its plasmic state using pressure: a known scientific term normally aligned with the biology and referring to a method of testing pressure within the cells of the lungs.
DEECOM® specifically uses ‘thermo-cyclic pressolysis’ in that we add heat and swings of pressure to interact with the polymer in question and achieve the desired result; without engaging the original component or fibre, thus reclaiming near-virgin quality materials.
What does DEECOM® look like?
Our DEECOM® patents are for the process, not for the machinery that houses it. This frees us from the constraints of shape, size and design and means that each unit built is slightly different and somewhat bespoke to the customer. For example, units for reclamation of huge polymer filters…are understandably huge! Units are specified based on customer need; throughput, format, volume, material, preferred output, feed system, etc. and can range from a desktop structure to one similar to that below;
DEECOM® is a multi-patented, pressolysis process, requiring a clean water supply and power (usually fuel or a gas boiler but can also be electric) in order to create high temperature, low pressure ‘clean’ steam in a pressure vessel environment. The sequence of compressions and decompressions (hence the name) over time create a ‘molecular earthquake’ and a physical fracturing of the molecular chain of polymer, rubber and resin composites (in the case of polyester from 220 molecules into 12s and 20s), effectively breaking down the polymer and (reverting to) the original oligomers and monomers, allowing for remanufacture, repurposing and reuse for multiple lifecycles.
Originally a batch process, some of our industry partners identified a need for a continuous solution, which in 2022 will also be available beyond lab scale.
DEECOM® is so gentle in its treatment of materials that format and structure is untouched, mean that a woven fabric remains woven after processing – a good illustration of how DEECOM® interacts with the organics, not the component;
What happens then?
Original component (fibre, filter, value polymer) is retrieved from the vessel in a clean, useable and high quality format. The format you put into DEECOM® is the format you’ll get out, for example;
- woven fabric with resin = woven fabric without resin
- short, chopped offcuts with resin = short, chopped offcuts without resin
- continuous, hooped fibre with resin = continuous, hooped fibre without resin
- filter blocked with frozen polymer = filter 100% clear of contamination
Read our 2004 patent for DEECOM® filter cleaning
Read our 2012 patent for DEECOM® value reclamation
Countries already benefitting from Longworth’s technologies include:
We’re very lucky to work with some of the best in field specialists from across the industries that we affect. A few of the ones we’re allowed to talk about include;
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