Sustainable Composite Supplies Used to Construct Wild Water Kayak

A team of 19 graduates, apprentices, and year-in-industry students at the National Composites Center (NCC) worked together to imagine, design, and manufacture a wild water kayak built from sustainable composite materials.

Jacob Holmes, a graduate research engineer at the NCC, and a member of the senior Great Britain wild water kayak team for five years, explained how the concept for the project came to be. “The idea for the project came about after the rules for wild water racing kayak dimensions changed this year,” said Mr. Holmes. “There is now no minimum width, and whilst this development has been slow over decades, it is potentially set for rapid change. There are currently no white-water racing kayaks made in the UK and there is no end-of-life solution for them either. We thought this would be a great challenge for our team of young engineers to work together on.”

Focused on new materials with lower embedded CO₂, longer life, and recyclability, the team selected Recyclamine technology for the manufacturing process of the kayak. Recyclamine, a hardener compatible with epoxy resins, allows thermoset epoxy resins to dissolve facilitating fiber reclamation without the need to cut the fiber. Recyclamine technology moves manufacturing towards a circular economy by providing better fiber reclamation than with traditional epoxies and useful resin output from the recycling process.

The weight of the kayak is the same as current kayaks, but the width was reduced from 60cm to 53cm, in line with the recent rule change. Once the kayak is complete it will be tested in wild water conditions to determine the impact of the reduced width of the vessel. With positive results, the next step will be taking the kayak into racing conditions.

The team will continue to focus on the circular economy, running recycling trials with the material and studying the recovered fiber to create future uses.

Emma Burns, also a graduate research engineer at the NCC and co-leader of the kayak project, added, “Being able to see a project through from an idea to a completed product was really rewarding. Leading the project from the technical side, I gained insight and understanding into so many areas- from tooling to material selection, through to manufacture.”

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