CLEVELAND (Aug. 31, 2011)—A post-doctoral researcher at Case Western Reserve University has spearheaded an effort to build the world's first polyurethane wind turbine blade reinforced with carbon nanotubes.
Marcio Loos, at Cleveland-based CWRU's department of macromolecular science and engineering, worked with colleagues at the university and from Bayer MaterialScience L.L.C. in Pittsburgh and Molded Fiber Glass Co. in Ashtabula, Ohio, on the project.
“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 in a news release.
Loos built the blade on weekends.
Lighter blades help to maximize energy output from wind turbines. In a comparison of reinforcing materials, the researchers found carbon nanotubes are lighter per unit of volume than carbon fiber and aluminum, and had more than 5 times the tensile strength of carbon fiber and more than 60 times that of aluminum.
Fatigue testing showed the reinforced PU lasts about eight times longer than epoxy-reinforced fiberglass. The new material was also about eight times tougher in delamination fracture tests.
Performance was even better compared to vinyl ester-reinforced fiberglass, the researchers said.
The research is funded by a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus grant and Bayer MaterialScience.