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Post-doc introduces world’s first nanotube-reinforced, polyurethane turbine blade

Innovation in the wind energy sector often demands bigger, lighter and more durable turbine blades that will last longer, capture more wind, and more efficiently convert the wind’s energy into electricity to power our cities and towns.

With chemistry’s help, Marcio Loos, a post-doctorate researcher at Case Western Reserve University, may have found the winning solution: a polyurethane blade reinforced with carbon nanotubes.

Working alongside colleagues from CWRU, Bayer Material Science and Molded Fiber Glass Co., Loos successfully powered a 400-watt turbine with a 29-inch functional prototype he spent weekends building.

Researchers then compared the reinforcing properties of the Loos prototype with those of conventional blades and found promising results. The carbon nanotube reinforcements were lighter than carbon fiber and aluminum, possessed five times the tensile strength of carbon fiber and more than 60 times that of aluminum, and lasted about eight times longer than fiberglass resin.

Ica Manas-Zloczower, professor of macromolecular science and engineering, said in a University release:

[quote]Results of mechanical testing for the carbon nanotube reinforced polyurethane show that this material outperforms the currently used resins for wind blades applications. … [The prototype] will be used to emphasize the significant potential of carbon nanotube reinforced polyurethane systems for use in the next generation of wind turbine blades.[/quote]

As ACC’s President Cal Dooley wrote yesterday, graduate researchers like Loos are running thin in America. To continue our country’s tradition of spurring innovation, we must strengthen its science, technology, engineering and mathematics education system so that engineering minds like Loos’ are given the opportunity and resources to do what they do best: innovate.

Photo via Case Western University

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