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Carbon nanotubes 'could aid larger wind-blade design'

The wind-power industry’s drive for ever-larger rotors may be helped by a carbon nanotube-reinforced polyurethane (CNT PU) turbine-blade concept under development at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, US.

A team in the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering says it has demonstrated that CNT PU resin promises to be “substantially” lighter and eight-times stronger than conventional blade materials.

The claim comes after researchers fashioned 0.74-metre long blades and installed them on a 400W mini-scale wind turbine for testing.

The CWRU group’s blade, being developed with the support of the US Department of Energy and Bayer MaterialScience, would be the first in the world to use CNT PU.

“There is a need for the development of stronger and lighter materials which will enable manufacturing of blades for larger rotors, [because] the larger the area through which the turbine can extract the wind energy, the more power can be captured,” says Marcio Loos, who is running the research.

“Advanced materials with higher strength-to-mass ratios could enable larger area rotors to be cost-effective. Carbon nanotube based composites could enable larger rotor blades.”