Tougher materials for larger turbines

Wind turbine

The Danish wind turbine company Vestas is teaming up with Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) scientists to develop stronger carbon fibre composite materials for reinforcing turbine blades.

Wind turbine blades are the most significant use of carbon fibre, accounting for 40% of all production and Vestas is one of the largest users of carbon fibre in the world. The company has funded two years of research at IFM’s Carbon Nexus facility into strengthening carbon fibre and composite materials. The investment is part of a project to build two wind farms in Victoria that together will deliver more than 500 megawatts –enough to power 350,000 homes.

Although carbon fibre is very strong in tension, it is quite weak in compression, which limits the length of wind turbine blades to 80 or 90 metres. Longer blades could catch even more wind and generate more power.

Vestas has made a commitment to develop the industry in Victoria, from assembling the turbine hubs in a decommissioned Ford factory to research into materials and other technology.

“Vestas has been an amazing partner,” says IFM’s Professor Russell Varley. “Beyond just funding, they have helped us make connections all over the world with producers and users of carbon fibre and composites.”

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