What is happening
Scientists are proposing to make wind turbine blades from a new material that can be recycled into a myriad of everyday items.
why is it important
It is difficult and expensive to recycle standard fiberglass wind turbine blades, so obsolete equipment usually ends up in a landfill.
Even wind power – arguably the most established means of generating environmentally friendly energy – has an Achilles heel.
The soaring towers that draw their energy from the wind are topped with huge turbine blades, and these blades need to be replaced from time to time. Thus, a considerable amount of old equipment has to be disposed of and, in recent years, experts have questioned whether such elimination meets ecological criteria.
Simply, the concern is whether the blades of wind turbines are recyclable. If not, maybe throwing used blades into landfills somehow negates the presumed durability of the system. But it is a difficult situation. These blades are usually made of fiberglass, a material that is very difficult to cut, transport and reuse in other things.
Although some experts have successfully recycled the energy recovery tool, such as American start-up Global Fiberglass Solutionswho used them to create raw materials for 3D printing, statistics show that most of the timeartifacts are simply added to the trash heaps that emanating harmful gases into the atmosphere and encroaching on the natural habitats of wildlife. Why? It’s ultimately cheaper.
However, scientists at Michigan State University on Monday came up with their plans in an innovative way to solve this problem. They have developed a new form of wind turbine material that combines glass fibers with plant-derived and synthetic polymers, which refer to long chains of molecules. The mixture is called a composite resin, and its hype is that it can be recycled much more easily than pure fiberglass.
Oh, and here’s the best part: it can also be made into delicious gummy bears.
“The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it’s in so it can be used again and again. still in an infinite loop,” John Dorgan, an MSU chemical engineer who will present the team’s work at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society, said in a press release. “That’s the goal of the circular economy.”
Turn turbines into treats
Basically, the team’s new resin can be separated into its constituent parts when its work as a wind turbine structure is complete. Above all, it means that hard-to-handle pieces of fiberglass can be removed. Then the resulting goop can be remelted into new windmills, as well as a wide variety other materials. And I mean wide.
It just depends on the constituents of the mixture you decide to remove and manipulate.
When the researchers digested the resin in an alkaline solution, for example, they received an acrylic substance that can be used to make car windows and taillights. Raise the temperature during digestion and it instead yields a super absorbent polymer, often used when making diapers.
This resin can also reincarnate as household countertops when mixed with various minerals. “We recently made a bathroom sink with the cultured stone, so we know it works,” Dorgan said. And the dissolved material can also be combined with plastics, resulting in more luxurious items, like laptop sleeves and power tools.
“We salvaged food-grade potassium lactate and used it to make gummy candies, which I ate,” Dorgan said. Not a Haribo fan? This chemical can also be made into sports drinks like Gatorade.
And if you’re put off by the thought of eating a gummy version or a fruity drink concoction constructed from an old windmill, Dorgan points out that “a carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different than a carbon atom from a fossil fuel…it’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to sustainable plastic materials and get back to food.”
However, it’s also important to note that so far the team has only made a prototype of their invention. And to go from prototype to final product, explained Dorgan, there is a small limit: “There is not enough bioplastic that we use to satisfy this market, so there must be a considerable volume of production put in place. line if we are actually going to start making wind turbines out of these materials.”
But if that hurdle is cleared, we could be entering an era where our Macbook cases, iPhone charging cables, sturdy kitchen utensils, and even gelatinous snacks are entwined with the remnants of a veteran blade that once lived. in the clouds.