Last week, Carbon Conversions’ process of recycling carbon fiber from bicycles for Formula 1 race cars was featured on the Science Channel’s new series “Made by Destruction.” The premise of the show is to give details about how something at the end of its useful life is “destroyed” and then “remade” into something else.

As the episode explains, unlike bicycles with steel or aluminum frames, when carbon fiber bikes hit the dirt a little too hard, they shatter and can’t be fixed. Since carbon fiber doesn’t rust or decompose, these bike frames often end up in a landfill forever. At the Carbon Conversions factory in Lake City, S.C., they chop, crush and cook these bikes to get the precious carbon fiber trapped inside. The episode referred to the ability to rescue the fibers and reconstitute them as “a game changer.”

First, technicians cut the bikes into manageable pieces. A conveyor feeds the carbon fiber parts into a rotary chopper that dices them into even smaller parts using a massive guillotine blade. The chopped pieces are moved to a furnace, where they’re pyrolyzed, which burns away everything but the carbon fibers.

“If the temperature is too cool, the fiber won’t separate from the paint and glue,” the episode says. “Too hot, and you end up with a pile of unusable ash. It took multiple trials to fine-tune the temperature to a thermal sweet spot, and it’s a closely guarded secret.”

When the materials come out of the furnace, everything that was once a bicycle is gone. All that’s left is “carbon fiber fluff,” which is then into a swirling water bath. Inside the tank, binder fibers mix in with the fluff.

“These microscopic binder fibers act like little birds that help bond the carbon filaments together,” the episode explains. “A cycling drum gently blends the mixture and a vacuum pulls it through a filter at the top of the drum like a giant lint screen, forming the particles into one unified sheet.”

The carbon fiber is then shipped to Denver, N.C. to Crawford Composites, who take care of the molding and finishing. For the molding, a computer-assisted blade cuts the patterns that form the body of the race car. Workers lay three cutouts onto the mold and carefully wrap each molded panel, readying them for the autoclave. The autoclave is heated to 194 F and after six hours, the part is formed and ready for finishing for Crawford’s Formula Lites 15 car.