The European Union has started a research project aimed at the development of durable, low-cost composite materials for large load carrying constructions like bridges, offshore structures, and wind-turbine blades.
The European Commission included in the budget 5.9 million euros. Industrial and research groups from five different countries are working on the project, which is being coordinated by SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest independent research organisations, headquartered in Trondheim, Norway.
The participants will work together to develop durable composite materials, solutions for monitoring quality during the manufacturing process and tools for technical inspection.
Priorities include the development of damage-tolerant composites capable of withstanding heavy loads, such as bridges and wind turbine blades. The researchers will focus on fiber reinforced plastics and laminated composites.
The objective is to give bridges a longer lifetime, while reducing lifespan costs by 30 per cent. In the case of wind turbine blades, the aim is a 30 per cent increase in lifespan and a 50 per cent reduction in costs.
The focus is on predicting composites behaviour, and combining materials properties so that the final composite will be damage-tolerant, preventing fractures from propagating. Such characteristics will extend lifespan of the structural elements, without requiring expenses for renovation and condition monitoring so significantly reducing life cycle costs.
It is really difficult and costly to monitor condition of offshore wind turbines and other offshore structures, so they are developing technology that will enable the monitoring of fracture development using optical and acoustic sensors.
The project’s findings will also be used in other applications where the ability of structural materials to withstand heavy loads and harsh environmental conditions is very important.
The project is supposed to generate a range of products, as follows:
- Guidelines and modeling tools for reliable design of critical load carrying composite structures;
- Guidelines for materials qualification;
- Structural health monitoring and damage assessment solutions;
- LCCA & LCA methodology for large composite constructions.
The USA is also supporting cost-effective projects that reduce wind turbine cost, e.g. a basalt fiber reinforced concrete 3D printing technology for wind turbine towers was awarded several grants worth about $ 1.35 million.
Terms: wind energy