A Buckinghamshire start-up is helping the battle to reduce carbon emissions with a ground-breaking method that can recyle fibres from military body armour so it can be used again by soldiers or civilians.
The process, which has been developed by Uplift360 with the help of defence and security accelerator (DASA) funding, uses sustainable chemicals to turn the waste so-called para-aramid fibres into a liquid, which can be spun back into a similarly high performance material.
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The break-through could lead to a reduction in Co2 emissions, strengthen vulnerable supply chains, and provide substantial cost savings for Defence.
The recycled fibres can also be used in civilian clothing such as hiking gear, tyres, gloves and ropes.
Baroness Goldie, a minister of state for defence, said: “The process designed by Uplift360 is a really good example of how new and intelligent thinking can transform old practices in Defence.
“Their innovative approach could reduce wastage, save money and secure supply without compromising on high quality kit for our armed forces. I look forward to seeing their important work continue to help Defence make even more progress toward reducing emissions.”
Body armour at the moment has a shelf life of around five years, because of the natural breakdown of para-aramid fibres (commercial names include Kevlar and Twaron). It is also expensive to make – each unit costs up to £3,000.
Currently, when body armour expires, it is incinerated, resulting in the loss of valuable para-aramid fibres, which are estimated to be 85 times’ more expensive than steel.
Para-aramid fibres are also found in other parts of defence, including airplanes, land vehicles, uniforms, and helmets.
Receiving in all £495,577 from DASA in project funding over the last few years, the group’s technology uses environmentally friendly, recyclable solvents to dissolve para-aramids into a concentrated solution before they are re-formed.
Jamie Meighan, Uplift360’s CEO and co-founder, said: “DASA has been instrumental to the success of Uplift360. From a concept to our initial investment to creating our ground-breaking technology in our labs, DASA has been there every step of the way.”
Uplift360, founded in 2021, describes itself as a “greentech startup” working in the advanced material circular economy (redesign, reuse, regenerate and recycle) and it is focused on the defence and security sector.
Comprising a team of just five, including co-founders Sam Staincliffe, a former disaster response expert and Jamie Meighan, a former Royal Air Force wing commander and Military affairs officer for the United Nations, the future looks bright, with numerous successful funding rounds and interest from international allies.
Its head of research and innovation since June last year has been Chris Jenkins, a chemistry masters graduate from the University of Bristol.
With the most recent DASA funding, the company aims to work with aramid manufacturers to further demonstrate the technology at a wider scale.
It has also just secured initial seed investment and is looking to explore the potential of applying its innovative technologies to carbon fibre composites, a critical component in many military materials and capabilities.
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