Sustainable Materials for Marine Solar Panels

Grafmarine is a Greater Manchester based SME developing an integrated solar energy and electrical storage system for the marine environment. This novel technology stores energy in a small hexagonal tile that can be attached to any flat surface and configured to create a network of tiles, which are designed to reduce carbon emissions from the marine sector. The tiles are complex constructions incorporating multiple components and materials, including a photovoltaic top, resin housing and conductive.

Having previously collaborated with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester, Grafmarine were referred to the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub after expressing interest in making the tiles fully recyclable as soon as possible.

In coming to the SMI Hub via the Advice strand, Grafmarine were looking make their tiles fully circular, and needed advice to understand how recyclable the current materials they were using were, and what alternatives were available.

“The SMI Hub were very easy to work with, taking quick action upon everything we discussed. Yes, absolutely, working with Royce is very important for Grafmarine.”

Martin Leigh, Technology Director, Grafmarine

The SMI Hub provided a comprehensive report detailing alternative plastics that could be used instead of the resins, exploring thermoplastic alternatives that were more recyclable, bio-based resins made from renewable materials and considerations for the inclusion of recycled content from hard-to-recycle items.

The assessment of these materials took into account the specific challenges the tiles will face over their lifetime, including thermal stability, environmental degradation and end-of-life fate – exploring both mechanical and chemical recycling. The report summarised the findings of the SMI Hub and made recommendations for more sustainable alternative materials that Grafmarine could incorporate in the future.

Next steps

Grafmarine would like to work further with SMI Hub, and are currently working with Circular Revolution in Wales, Swansea University and a number of commercial EU partners towards developing fully recyclable renewable energy. This will involve the development of new materials ahead combining new technologies with alternative plastics towards finding solutions for Grafmarine’s harsh environment operating challenges with the ability to save the environment from further pollution in the future.

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