London’s Brunel University has developed a connector for mooring applications made from recycled aluminium strengthened by basalt fibers. The newly developed connectors are supposed to cut down operational costs of tidal, wave and offshore wind energy stations.
Connectors are key components that join moorings for floating energy farms with their anchors. The generated power is carried away by cable inside the mooring ropes. Thus, increasing the in-service life of the rope will reduce capital expenditure and maintenance costs of wave energy converter.
“Generally, at connector point, the ropes deteriorate and end up breaking, with big costs for retrieval. So normally the ropes are changed every five years to avoid this,” says Dr Lorna Aguilano, a research fellow at the London based Experimental Techniques Centre.
The Experimental Techniques Centre and the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification technology offered a multi-material connector for mooring applications. The core is formed from Basaltium (aluminium matrix reinforced with basalt fibers) that is developed by the Centre. It is coated with another innovative material, Oilon, a low-friction nylon from plastics makers Nylacast.
Together, these new materials make connectors lighter and tougher, and mean moorings can last longer and cost less to manufacture and maintain.
Designed firstly for floating wave energy converters, these connectors are the work of STORM (Specialised Thimbles for Offshore Renewable Marine energy) – a project by Tension Technology International (TTI), Brunel University London, Nylacast and the European Marine Energy Centre.
According to Nigel Briggs, Project Manager at TTI, the mooring systems are critical for the success of offshore floating renewable energy devices. The company wants to bring together both offshore energy developers and moorings experts to share challenges and operating solutions for this vital marine energy subsystem.
Of note, basalt rebar is used to construct floating foundations suitable for deep water wind parks in the USA. This rebar type is more resistant to the corrosive environment than that made of conventional materials resulting in increasing in-service life.