EngD Project Title: Use of Thermoplastic Resins in Composite Tidal Turbine Blades: Manufacturing Feasibility and the Impacts of Water Ingress.
Industrial Partner: FastBlade
After spending five years working in the automotive sector as a mechanical design engineer, Ione made the decision to move into the renewable energy sector. She had become increasingly keen that her professional life and personal belief in a sustainable, minimal impact world become more closely aligned. The IDCORE programme offers the multi-disciplinary combination of fast-paced study with cutting-edge research, all while retaining direct industrial relevance. The opportunity to learn and retrain whilst contributing to work with real-world, direct use was what attracted Ione to the programme.
Ione is conducting her research with FASTBLADE, the world's first test facility to offer regenerative fatigue testing of tidal turbine blades and other composite structures.
Tidal energy has huge potential as a predictable renewable energy resource. Rotor blades are key components of tidal turbine energy converters. Despite being similar in structure to wind turbine blades, tidal turbine blades operate in very different conditions. In addition to being continuously submerged in saltwater, tidal turbine blades are subjected to much higher loads, resulting in thick-section laminates (10 - 100 mm) throughout the blade. The majority of tidal turbine blades are manufactured from fibre-reinforced thermoset composite materials using vacuum assisted resin transfer moulding (VARTM). The cross-linking of polymer chains in thermoset-matrix tidal turbine blade parts currently renders them unrecyclable. Recent material innovations such as liquid thermoplastic resins provide the potential for more sustainable material choices for composite tidal turbine blades. However, there is currently a lack of understanding as to how alternative resin materials will perform as thick-section laminates and thus if they would be suitable for tidal turbine blades.
Ione's project will evaluate the suitability of thermoplastic resins in the manufacture of thick-section composites found in tidal turbine blades. The effect of different manufacturing processes variables and impacts of water ingress on laminate quality will be assessed.