Offshore wind turbines are becoming ever larger, and the transportation, installation, disassembly and disposal of their gigantic rotor blades are presenting operators with new challenges. Fraunhofer researchers have partnered with industry experts to develop highly durable thermoplastic foams and composites that make the blades lighter and recyclable. Thanks to their special properties, the new materials are also suitable for other lightweight structures, for instance in the automotive sector. The first demonstrators will be on display at the K 2016 trade fair in Düsseldorf from October 19 to 26.
The trend toward ever larger offshore wind farms continues unabated. Wind turbines with rotor blades measuring up to 80 meters in length and a rotor diameter of over 160 meters are designed to maximize energy yields. Since the length of the blades is limited by their weight, it is essential to develop lightweight systems with high material strength. The lower weight makes the wind turbines easier to assemble and disassemble, and also improves their stability at sea. In the EU’s WALiD (Wind Blade Using Cost-Effective Advanced Lightweight Design) project, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal are working closely with ten industry and research partners on the lightweight design of rotor blades (see box). By improving the design and materials used, they hope to reduce the weight of the blades and thus increase their service life.