12/14/2021 - 7mn
Recyclable composite sailboats: Interview with the innovative startup Northern Light Composites
Every year, some 12,000 boats are scrapped in France alone, and this figure is constantly increasing. The environmental consequences are alarming because the majority of these boats are not recycled! And for good reason: it is almost impossible to recycle these boats made of thermoset composites, due to the complexity and cost of the recovery process. Northern Light Composites is an Italian startup that aims to revolutionize the sailing industry. Pioneers, its founders Fabio Bignolini and Andrea Paduano use natural fibers and sustainable resins like Elium® to build sailboats that are fully recyclable at the end of their lives.
Which parts of your boats are made using Elium® resin?
Fabio Bignolini & Andrea Paduano – The hull, deck and the structures are made from natural fibers, recycled carbon and Elium® Resin. This helps to make our boats 90% recyclable. Currently, the traditional yacht and racing fleet is made from a non-recyclable mix of glass fiber and thermoset table resins.
What makes Northern Light Composites different from other solutions?
F.B. & A.P. – Recyclability for sure! We are both young; we created our start-up Northern Light just over a year ago, and we are sensitive to the advantage of recyclability. Elium® resin, which has been an integral part of the entrepreneurial project since it was created, is the solution. Eco-design requires recyclability, sustainable materials and reduced energy consumption at the production stage.
We are offering something new, basing the design of our boats on recyclability".
ANDREA PADUANO Technical director of Northern Light and yachtsman.
What are the challenges relating to this innovation?
F.B. & A.P. – Clearly persuading our clients that our models deliver the same performance as the traditional models they know made from thermosettable resins. This means resistance, rigidity, etc. This is a huge challenge as we are the first to offer it on the market. That’s why we want to test out one of our models in racing. If the trials are conclusive, professional skippers will validate and give credibility to our choice of options and materials, primarily Elium®.
What does Northern Light offer?
F.B. & A.P. – Two boats are soon to come out of our workshops: Ecoprimus, a small dinghy for children, and Ecoracer 769, our 9-meter sport yacht that will compete in regattas. The Ecoprimus will be on the water in May; the first prototypes are already out. We’re all young but we have big ambitions. We plan to build other eco-designed models, such as a 10-meter yacht and a small foiler. Our sights are set on the mass yachting market.
*Foiler: monohull boat that uses the dynamic support of several foils (submerged wings or level, streamlined and submerged airfoils) as a replacement for or in addition to the Archimedean mode of the hull or hulls.
What is the role of Arkema as material expert?
F.B. & A.P. – Yes, because of the importance of Elium® resin for our boats, but that’s not all. Arkema is also helping us to design Elium® resin hull production molds, still with the same idea, and we are planning a partnership to develop new recyclable materials. Arkema is a source of inspiration as the company designed the very first prototype using Elium® resin, the Arkema 3 Mini 6.50, a demonstration model built four years ago with skipper Lalou Roucayrol’s Lalou Multi shipyard.