DEECOM® Pressolysis by Longworth
Zero emission reclamation and reuse for plastics, polymers and composites.
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.
Commercialisation | Scale-up | Routes to market | Investment opportunities
We’re constantly looking for the next challenge, both environmentally and technologically. If you have a challenging waste stream, want to plan for end of life or if you create a polymer waste you’d rather have re-used, we’d love to hear from you.
If you’re a waste handler or recycler and are interested in adding DEECOM® pressolysis to your innovation portfolio – you’re the perfect fit – get in touch!
2022 saw DEECOM® pressolysis reach commercialisation for the composites industry, with a license granted for the sale and manufacturing of DEECOM® technology to our partners, global equipment supplier and UK manufacturer Cygnet Texkimp Ltd. Units for the recovery, conversion and reuse of carbon, glass and their resin systems are now available for trials and to order.
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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;
Fields of Use:
Composites Fibre & Resin Reclamation
Composite components such as carbon fibre, glass fibre, aramid cannot be landfilled due to their hazardous nature. The established and historic methods of disposal are chemical recycling (solvolysis, using solvents) or burning (pyrolysis), which weakens the fibres rendering them low grade and unsuitable for many applications, but remanufacture to lower grade composite e.g. sports equipment, concrete or outdoor furniture, is possible.
Using a DEECOM® pressolysis, valuable fibre can be reclaimed from the resin matrix without burning, chopping or weakening; allowing for reprocessing and remanufacture into high grade items with demands for safety and strength.
The composites industry worldwide already reports a massive shortage in supply of these materials, demand and cost are high and projected to grow over the coming years, along with waste
Our dream for composites is a fully circular solution, with manufacturers large and small converting and reusing their own material for free, meaning less demand for virgin carbon fibre, a lower carbon footprint across the industry, and the possibility of a truly circular economy.
In 2010 Boeing approached us to undertake trials for using DEECOM® to process sections of carbon fibre fuselage in a bid to remove the resins and reclaim the carbon fibres. Our results were sent to Clemson University in South Carolina for verification, who reportedly found the fibres to be of ‘pristine tensile strength and all but identical in characteristic to virgin fibres’
Contact us to view the report from Clemson
Since then, progress has been made to enable further trials, lab analysis and verification. Recent years have seen success in processing partners’ components for re-manufacture; from chopped fibre into AFFT tape into tennis rackets; from hydrogen tanks into continuous fibre spool into new tank; from PEEK panel back into PEEK panel. Anything is possible if the industry accepts rCF and rGRP as an advanced material for specification.
A 2022 Phd project by Bristol University, pressolysed fibres from the DEECOM® process were compared with virgin and with pyrolysed fibres from an alternative process. The results are encouraging with those fibres reclaimed using pressolysis displaying up to 97% of the virgin fibre performance. BUT is the loss in performance caused by original manufacturing processes…or by DEECOM®???? We’d love to find out.
From uncured pre-preg waste to end of life components – the future (and the future’s future); could very well be composite.
More about DEECOM® for composite reclamation (PDF, 450kb)
Plastics, polymers & resins
“The enemy is not plastic. It is the plastic waste that leaks into the environment and going forward significant change is needed to address this.” British Plastics Federation 2020
Our decades of working with different polymers, often with challenging or potentially dangerous contaminants, has taught us how to handle commonly used plastics such as polyester, PEEK, blown film, latex, epoxy and polypropylene. Sometimes a customer simply wants this contaminant removed and reduced but often there is value in this ‘waste’ that DEECOM® can capture and add back into useful circulation.
Reduction of waste plastics
DEECOM® can achieve reduction by volume of up to 98%* meaning that mountains of plastic waste can be reduced and the remaining 2% either landfilled to biodegrade faster, or preferably be given another purpose. Whilst we are able to significantly reduce this ‘waste’ by volume, we’d rather it was then given a new lease of life!
*A test in 2011 carried out on an oil drum full of used 500ml polyester bottles of drinking water, contaminated with a cobalt colourant, with and without screw caps and calculated by Longworth engineers to have reduced to 2% of the original volume post- DEECOM®
Plastic bottles can also be sterilised and returned to their ‘pre-form’ shape using DEECOM® technology
It’s amazing what can be achieved using pressolysis and H2O.
Reclaimed monomers and oligomers
Academic partners on several projects have found that customers’ ‘waste’ plastics can be reclaimed as the original monomers;
Waste polyester creates terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol (EG), both in a refined, market-ready state
Waste nylon from carpets creates caprolactam to be used in making new nylon
What if all the ‘waste’ plastics we believe can’t be recycled, can actually bring value and circularity to the manufacturing supply chain?
Our KTP with University of Manchester began in January 2020 to explore the application of DEECOM® technology for the reclamation of mixed carpet waste.
We’re pleased to be working with our partners at University of Manchester on our active KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership), part-funded by Innovate UK, a Government scheme intended to promote sustained and mutually beneficial relationships between universities and industry.
Through this KTP, the University of Manchester and Longworth are developing and optimising new uses for the DEECOM® technology’s capabilities in polymer waste reduction and monomers/oligomers reclamation using pressurised steam, in a method labelled ‘thermo-cyclic pressolysis’, to enable the technology to enter new waste treatment markets.
What’s different about DEECOM® for carpet recycling?
- Separates materials, can reclaim natural fibres
- Flexible, tailored, portable
- Closes the loop
- Zero harmful emissions
- 100% reclaim and reuse capability
- Users become material producers
- Creates new markets for YOUR waste streams
- Waste = free raw materials
- Takes the solution to the problem – no more transporting tonnes of waste across the country/globe
How can I benefit from DEECOM®?
- Take DEECOM® to site for legacy waste and off cuts
- Create revenue from the resulting recyclate
- DEECOM® at major event venues
- Reclaim 100% of the waste you process
- Create new revenue streams
- Closed loop
- Reduce transportation of waste – convert onsite
- Offset 2025 EPR
- Be the solution
Results of an early trial on polyester carpet with a PP backing;
So what’s next?
We believe we’ve delivered a circular solution to carpet recycling.
BUT we need you, the industry, to help build the business case.
“To give multiple life cycles to every virgin fibre created from raw materials; using a circular, closed loop method from a British innovation, making the UK a quality materials producer and exporter and reducing its reliance on importing.”
Plasticised and coated textiles
carpets | fast fashion | technical fabrics | flame retardant fabrics
Following a number of projects with valued partners in the textiles, technical fabrics and fashion industries, we’ve seen exciting developments in the application of DEECOM® for the reduction, reclamation and separation of textiles waste.
One project, acknowledged by the government’s Select Committee in December 2021, saw the full circularity from waste polyester ‘fast fashion’ garments into accessories for new garments and items for the supply chain, reducing the need for raw materials used by this industry.
Another has proven the separation of nylon and elastane in waste swimwear and gymwear, previously assumed impossible.
This is a hugely important area of interest for Longworth with significant environmental and sustainability outcomes and new funding, investors and partners are actively being sought.
Medical & Single Use Care Items
DEECOM® has been recommended as a technology of choice for a pilot project into reducing single use plastics within the NHS, following a length research review by Axion. In addition we’re actively looking for partners/investors/funders in the private care sector for a waste reduction and drive to net zero project.
Single use plastics in the medical and care sector can include;
- syringes & canulas
- absorbent products (bed pads, sanitary products, nappies, surgical spill kits, dressings)
- IV bags, tubes and connectors
- blood and organ storage and transport products
- urostomy/colostomy bags
Our Innovate UK project into Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP) in 2020 found that this waste makes up for a colossal amount of clinical, hazardous and ‘offensive’ waste sent to landfill or incineration each year in the UK alone. These products, inc medical mats, pads, sanitary products, and nappies, are made up of at least 8 different layers of plastics and include complex super absorbent polymers (SAP) which are incredibly valuable in both monetary and environmental terms and can now, thanks to DEECOM® be reclaimed in a safe, clean and reusable manner.
The 3 month ‘sprint’ project used a variety of materials (including a synthetic human excrement product and a live e-coli sample!) to prove that a mix of DEECOM® and DEECOM®lite technologies is successful in sterilising, reducing, dehydrating, and de-classifying this waste from hazardous-to-offensive-to-inert with huge cost savings for the industry. In addition, early indications are that different polymeric layers were separated with the opportunity to reclaim each, and the SAP reclaimed in a form that enables multiple future absorption.
We’re currently looking for industry partners and investors to support our activities in SAP recycling activities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with enquiries.
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