The company ExoTechnologies developed a material that is stronger and lighter than fiberglass and is also competitive in price. Also not unimportant: the material is recyclable and can be used again as a new composite after use. “We want to replace the entire fibreglass market.”
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M Class IV
The Scottish Police are the proud first owner of a boat with a fully recyclable hull.
The young company’s mailbox is overflowing with requests, says Jeroen Wats, co-founder and chief innovation officer of ExoTechnologies via a video link from the Isle of Man. From boat builders and windmill manufacturers to water parks and manufacturers of protective clothing. “Our material is stronger, lighter and more durable than traditional composites such as fibreglass and concrete. That makes it interesting for many applications.”
Separate raw materials
ExoTechnologies is an investment fund that developed the material DANU through its R&D branch. Like fibreglass, DANU consists of a mix of fibers and resin. The exact recipe logically remains a secret. “The big difference with fiberglass is that you can separate the raw materials from DANU after which you can use them again for the same application,” says Wats. “So completely circular.”
From sailor to boat builder
Wats himself was one of the founders of DANU. As an experienced sea sailor and record holder for a transatlantic crossing, he started his own boatyard at the time. Wats built hundreds of racing yachts here over the years. “I was living a childhood dream,” he says. “But I also saw the impact the use of materials had on the planet.”
Many boats are made of fiberglass and carbon fibers. The raw materials for this are impossible to separate afterwards so that in fact no ship is recyclable. “That bothered me. That’s why I started developing a new composite. When we finally did the first strength and tension tests for DANU, I was amazed by the results.”
Scottish boat with a new hull
ExoTechnologies daughter company Ultimate Boats, has now delivered their first boat fitted with a DANU hull to the water police in Scotland. The police boat is a lot lighter than the fibreglass variant, but a lot sturdier. Wats: “That is because you need considerably less fibers than glass fibres.”
Ultimately, the DANU boat is only one and a half per cent more expensive in cost than a fibreglass boat. And because ExoTechnologies expects the hull to last up to 70 years or more, it offers a lifetime warranty. “We can also separate and reuse the raw materials from DANU afterwards. In fact, you only buy the raw materials once.”
Trains, slides and helmets
The weight reduction, sturdiness and price mean that ExoTechnologies is now flooded with requests from all kinds of different quarters. “Thanks to the high impact resistance, we are now receiving requests from train manufacturers, for example, who are regularly damaged by boulders. But also producers of protective clothing, such as helmets and vests, are interested. We have now also carried out ballistic tests. The certificate has been received with which we prove that DANU is bulletproof.”
Recyclable wind turbine blades
Seemingly scrolling through his mailbox, Wats continues through his list of interested parties: “Water park slides, surfboards, food storage, truck booths, construction companies; it is actually too much to mention.” In particular, Wats sees opportunities for the blades of wind turbines, which are still often made of fibreglass. “The pollution from old wind turbine blades is enormous and will only increase in the future. Between today and 2050, 43 billion kilos of wind turbine blades will end up in landfills.”
We will probably see more and more places like this in the coming decades. Recycling old wind turbine blades is still only done on a small scale.
Unfortunately, Wats notices that many large wind turbine companies are hesitant to switch to a new material. “That’s why we try to get in touch with small manufacturers. They can distinguish themselves in government tenders with our recyclable products. At the same time, we inform governments that building circular wind turbine blades with DANU is possible. They can now include this in tenders as a pre.”
Although governments are increasingly including sustainability objectives in tenders, Wats is pessimistic about the benevolence of companies. “Sustainability continues to have an inferior sound: ‘sustainability is expensive or of lower quality’. I am very passionate about the subject, but I notice that you only really come to the table when you start talking about the functionalities.”
After a successful investment round of 7.7 million euros, ExoTechnologies wants to scale up in the coming period. “We don’t have to become the producer for every application of DANU. We will now first develop our R&D branch and further, explore what is possible at all. But ultimately we want to replace the entire fiber market with DANU.”