“In nature nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed” once said Antoine Lavoisier, one of the most renowned chemists of all times.
Applying this famous saying to modern business, Guillaume Loiseau and Esteban Villalon created Lavoisier Composites in May 2018, to design and manufacture materials and parts from composites upcycled from the aerospace industry.
Working for a world leader in high performance composite materials for the aerospace industry, the two engineers were amazed by the huge amount of waste generated. “This is a very valuable material, that is being thrown away, incinerated, and generating pollution” says Esteban Villalon.
“In the aerospace industry, for example, technical specifications are so precise that a minor deviation in fabrication can lead sometimes to a major scrap generation” explains Esteban. As the last generation of civil commercial aircrafts are mostly made of composites - more than 50% of the primary structure - the amount of waste generated has grown rapidly in recent years.
So what if this valuable resource could be reused and recycled? With this question in mind, Esteban and Guillaume created Carbonium®, a material composed of two thirds of carbon fiber and one third of high temperature epoxy. This new generation of material combines the performance of carbon fiber, robustness and light weight, a unique aesthetic look, and can be molded at high temperatures to manufacture parts in series. All of which can be done at a viable cost.
The environmental benefit of Carbonium® has been precisely calculated through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): for each kilogram of Carbonium® used, manufacturers reduce their CO2 emissions by 13kg, compared with using equivalent virgin materials.
Taking advantage of its unique dark and elegant look, Esteban and Guillaume decided to focus first on consumer applications for their new material. In 2019 Lavoisier Composites partnered with Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin to design luxury watches using Carbonium®. “The feedback was great because, even more in the luxury sector, customers are demanding more environmentally friendly products,” says Esteban.
In November 2019, the company, located in the outskirts of Lyon, France, was one of the twenty-two startups selected to join Airbus Bizlab, a 6-month accelerator programme “providing a platform to develop previously untapped technologies and ways of working in the aerospace sector.''
This could open the doors of the aerospace sector for Lavoisier Composites, meaning that Carbonium® could be used to make aircraft parts, and eventually close the loop?