Partnership recycles carbon fiber to permeable pavement

permeable-pavement-research-area-at-WSU-PuyallupSEATTLE – Improving water quality through better permeable pavement is the focus of a research and development collaboration announced by Boeing, Washington State University and the Washington Stormwater Center.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified improved permeable pavement as a positive step to mitigating stormwater issues in Washington state. In addition, the state requires low-impact development wherever feasible in western Washingon, and permeable pavement is one way to achieve that.

The porous concrete or asphalt, which allows stormwater to seep into the ground instead of running off to waterways, improves water quality by reducing flow, filtering pollutants and returning water to the water table.

Boeing is supporting the Washington Stormwater Center, a collaboration between WSU and the University of Washington, through a $212,000 research grant and donation of cured carbon fiber composite material. The material will be recycled to develop stronger permeable pavement.

The grant will support research programs at the WSU Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, Wash., and on the WSU Pullman campus.

“Water is one of our most precious resources, and we need to treat it as such,” said Ursula English, vice president, Boeing Environment, Health & Safety. “Creating the opportunity to use permeable pavement in more ways is good for the environment and the communities in which we live and work.”

The project will take a two-pronged approach to improving permeable pavement. First, scientists will recycle scrap carbon fiber composites to strengthen and reinforce porous pavement material, which is used in parking lots and side roads but is too soft to be used on heavily traveled roadways.

Second, the team will examine the composite material for toxicity to validate that it does not add pollutants to the soil or impact water quality.

“If we find that this material safely strengthens permeable pavement, resulting in an increase in its use, this could be a game changer in terms of reducing the impact of pollutants in stormwater on the environment,” said John Stark, director of the Washington Stormwater Center.

Boeing is an industry leader in global collaboration on environmental issues important to aerospace and communities, such as researching the use of innovative technology to help solve challenges like stormwater runoff.