New recyclable resin makes wind turbines much more sustainableby Liz Entman | Feb. 15, 2018, 10:58 AM
“What better application to look at than wind power, where we think about energy and sustainability foremost in our minds? It’s a grand challenge in composites manufacturing,” said Adams, who also chairs Vanderbilt’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The problem has a solution in sight, thanks to a new recyclable resin that cures at room temperature provided by industry partner Arkema. This new resin, called Elium, creates its own heat and cures without creating flaws in the fiberglass. Unlike its predecessor, this resin doesn’t prevent the fiberglass from being recycled.
The nation’s increasing demand for electricity has driven significant growth in the wind energy sector. The American Wind Energy Association estimates there are more than 52,000 utility-scale wind turbines operating in the U.S., and the wind energy jobs grew 20 percent in 2016. This growth is driving innovation in all aspects of the wind industry—including improvements in manufacturing efficiency, workforce training and end-of-life recycling. The long-term impact of the work led by Vanderbilt includes lower manufacturing costs, improved reliability of turbines and reduced life-cycle energy use.
“This composite materials technology is exciting because it closes the loop on sustainability in wind energy,” Adams said.
The next step is scaling up the process from test-size components to full-sized blades. As a partner in the institute, Vanderbilt will be able to take advantage of the consortium’s robust supply chain ecosystem to efficiently source the materials and manufacturing capability they’ll need, as well as provide Vanderbilt students the opportunity to work with a broad range of partners with diverse capabilities.
Liz Entman, (615) 322-NEWS