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Manufacturing and Flexural Characterization of Infusion-Reacted Thermoplastic Wind Turbine Blade Subcomponents


Reactive thermoplastics are advantageous for wind turbine blades because they are recyclable at end of life, have reduced manufacturing costs, and enable thermal joining and shaping. However, there are challenges with manufacturing wind components from these new materials. This work outlines the development of manufacturing processes for a thick glass fiber–reinforced acrylic thermoplastic resin wind turbine blade spar cap, with consideration given to effects of the exothermic curing reaction on thick composite parts. Comparative elastic properties of these infusible thermoplastic materials with epoxy thermoset materials, as well as thermoplastic coupon components, are also included. Based on the results of this study it is concluded that the thermoplastic resin system is a viable candidate for the manufacturing of wind turbine blades using vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding. Significant gains in energy savings are realized avoiding heated molds, ability for recycling, and providing an opportunity for utilizing thermal welding.

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This material is based on work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the support of Task 4.2 of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), Award Number DE-EE006926 managed by John Winkel from DOE and John Unser from IACMI. Academic and national laboratory partners for this project are Derek Berry and David Snowberg (NREL), Aaron Stebner (Colorado School of Mines), Nathan Sharpe (Purdue), Dayakar Penumadu and Stephen Young (University of Tennessee), and Douglas Adams (Vanderbilt). The industrial consortium for this project was led by Dana Swan (Arkema), Mingfu Zhang (Johns Manville), and Stephen Nolet (TPI Composites). The views and opinions of authors expressed in this paper or referenced documents do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. government or the identified collaborating partners. Authors acknowledge that important insight and ideas were obtained from academic and industrial collaborators during the project activities who are not being formally acknowledged in this manuscript as co-authors. Materials supplied, and manufacturing methods developed by the industrial collaborators are gratefully acknowledged.

The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC (Alliance) is the manager and operator of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This work was authored by the Alliance and supported by the U. S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind Energy Technologies Office. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Energy or the U.S. government. The U.S. government retains, and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the U.S. government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for U.S. government purposes.

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Correspondence to Robynne E. Murray.

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Murray, R.E., Penumadu, D., Cousins, D. et al. Manufacturing and Flexural Characterization of Infusion-Reacted Thermoplastic Wind Turbine Blade Subcomponents. Appl Compos Mater 26, 945–961 (2019).

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  • Thermoplastic resin
  • Elasticity
  • Mechanical testing
  • Vacuum infusion