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Washington State University wants to develop a low-energy system to make glass fiber from abandoned plants.
Clean energy generates, often, bulky waste. It’s the case of wind turbines, the giant arms that move the turbines and generate electricity. Also in this case, the goal is to recycle everything. To achieve this aim, the Washington State University along with the Seattle Global Fiberglass Solutions Company, is working to develop a technology designed to extract composite fiberglass material from out-of-use blades.
With the growth of the wind industry, more and more companies come to face with the disposal of three windmill blades for each generator, each of which weighs 10 tons, is 50 metres long and its life expectancy is more or less 18 years.
“The trick to make a successful recycling system is to set up a simple and low-cost process” explained Karl Englud, Professor of Engineering at the Washington State University. “Heat or chemical treatments, for example, lead to higher costs.”
The research is already well underway. Global Fiberglass Solutions cut the wind turbines in small pieces, no bigger than the palm of a hand. These were then grounded by the researchers and then treated to obtain new composite materials to be tested. The university team found out that the endurance of these materials compared well with wood compounds.
The final product made out of recycled blades could be used in various ways, such as tiles and guard rails in plastic material.
Recently, Global Fiberglass Solutions began to work with Janicki Industries to give a further boost to the project. The company produces high precision components for composite materials for aerospace, shipbuilding, energy, military, architecture and transport fields. Researchers at the Washington State University have also completed another project with Triumph Composites Systems in order to recycle carbon fiber composite materials for use in aviation. Supported by a fund of the Joint Centre for Aerospace Technology and Innovation, Englund’s team used low-energy systems to treat composite materials and create new products.