EngD Project Title: Use of Sustainable Resins in Composite Tidal Turbine Blades: Pathway to Circularity
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 a key component of tidal energy converters such as tidal stream turbines. Although similar in design to wind turbine blades, tidal turbine blades are subjected to much higher loads and therefore more demanding structural design. The majority of tidal turbine blades are manufactured using thermoset composite materials. Due to high load demand, the skins of composite tidal turbine blades result in thick sections, and vacuum assisted resin transfer moulding (VARTM) is often used as the method of manufacturing. Recent material innovations such as thermoplastic and bio resins have opened the door for more sustainable material choices for composite tidal rotor blades. However, there is currently a lack of understanding as to how alternative, more sustainable, resin materials will perform as thick-section laminates. Use of non-conventional resins also provides the opportunity to utilise different manufacturing methods. Considering material selection and manufacturing process together as opposed to two separate entities as seen currently has the potential to enable more efficient engineering.
Ione's project will evaluate the suitability of thermoplastic and bio resins in a composite tidal turbine blade and the impacts on mechanical performance. The use of sustainable resins will enable progress towards a circular economy.