Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Polyurethane and Carbon Nanotubes Challenge for Wind Turbine Blades

A team at Case Western University in Cleveland says it has built a polyurethane (PUR) wind turbine blade reinforced with carbon nanotubes, lighter and stronger than currently used materials, which enables the capture of more wind energy.

UPI, Plastics News, and other media broke the news on August 30, 2011, and PN said the Case Western team, led by post-doctoral researcher Marcio Loos, worked with Bayer MaterialScience (Pittsburg, PA) and Molded Fiber Glass (Ashtabula, OH).

A variety of materials have been used to make the large – 50- to 100-meter diameter – blade, including carbon fiber, glass fiber, epoxy, aluminum, and even wood. The research team noted that carbon nanotubes are lighter than carbon fibers by volume yet have five times the fiber’s tensile strength. Fatigue testing showed the reinforced PUR lasted eight times longer than epoxy-reinforced fiberglass, and was eight times tougher in delamination fracture tests.

The objective, according to Loos, is not to build longer blades but to build lighter ones that hold their design shape, letting them capture and send more of the wind’s energy to the turbines.  The big blades are only one of many components of renewable energy generation that are being enabled and often improved by plastics innovation.

The video above, which shows the assembly of a wind turbine on the Case Western campus, is not connected directly with the new blade announcement. However, in a bit more than two minutes it shows the complete assembly of a wind turbine, bare ground to spinning blades.


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