Efforts to build larger wind turbines able to capture more energy from the air are stymied by the weight of blades. A Case Western Reserve University researcher has built a prototype blade that is substantially lighter and eight times tougher and more durable than currently used blade materials.
Marcio Loos, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering, works with colleagues at Case Western Reserve, and investigators from Bayer MaterialScience in Pittsburgh, and Molded Fiber Glass Co. in Ashtabula, Ohio, comparing the properties of new materials with the current standards used in blade manufacturing.
On his own, Loos went to the lab on weekends and built the world's first polyurethane blade reinforced with carbon nanotubes. He wanted to be sure the composite that was scoring best on preliminary tests could be molded into the right shape and maintain properties.
Using a small commercial blade as a template, he manufactured a 29-inch blade that is substantially lighter, more rigid and tougher.
"The idea behind all this is the need to develop stronger and lighter materials which will enable manufacturing of blades for larger rotors," Loos said.
That's an industry goal.
In order to achieve the expansion expected in the market for wind energy, turbines need a bigger share of the wind. But, simply building larger blades isn't a smart answer.
The heavier the blades, the more wind is needed to turn the rotor. That means less energy is captured. And the more the blades flex in the wind, the more they lose the optimal shape for catching moving air, so, even less energy is captured.
Lighter, stiffer blades enable maximum energy and production.
"Results of mechanical testing for the carbon nanotube reinforced polyurethane show that this material outperforms the currently used resins for wind blades applications," said Ica Manas-Zloczower, professor
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University