Georgia Tech Team Receives NSF Grant

Students working on a retired wind turbine blade outside of the Digital Fabrication Lab.

 

Georgia Tech Team Awarded NSF Partnerships for Innovation Grant to Change the Game for the Afterlife of Wind Turbine Blades

November 16, 2020 | Atlanta, GA

Wind turbines are, by design, green solutions for the production of power. Wind turbines produce zero carbon emissions; however, the blades themselves pose an environmental challenge as they depreciate. To address this concern, the Georgia Institute of Technology, in partnership with Logisticus Group, was awarded the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) grant.

The PFI Program within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) provides researchers from science and engineering disciplines funded by the NSF with the opportunity to take their research and technology from the discovery phase to the marketplace for the benefit of society. 

Russell Gentry, Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Architecture, serves as the project’s principal investigator (PI). The three-year grant continues Gentry’s research on the reuse of retired wind blades and builds on the proprietary technology developed as part of the Re-Wind Tripartite Research program funded by the U.S. NSF, Science Foundation of Ireland, and the Department for the Economy of Northern Ireland.  

“In our foundational NSF grants, our team demonstrated the potential for wind blade re-use and the positive environmental benefits that will come from the re-use of these amazing composite materials in civil infrastructure,” said Gentry. “This potential is embodied in the two patents we are pursuing and in the follow-on Partnership for Industry grant from NSF. The team is now advancing our hardware and software technology and has partnered with companies in the wind energy and electrical transmission industries to pilot these technologies.”

Logisticus Group joins the project as the key provider of transportation for the retired wind turbine blades. As one of the largest wind blade transporters, Logisticus Group brings supply expertise for the complex logistics of transporting decommissioned wind turbine blades, which are approximately 50 meters in length. 

"We are thrilled to partner with Georgia Tech on this project. Their team has always had a passion to conduct research and development on proprietary technology when it comes to reusing wind blades. We feel, as a company, that we need to be a part of the solution to find ways to recycle and repurpose these blades,” said Will Stephan, founder of Logisticus Group.”

Wind turbine blades are made from high-quality Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composite materials, which are not biodegradable or recyclable. Currently, turbine blades are landfilled or incinerated at their end-of-life stage. Georgia Tech and Logisticus will conduct research and development to commercialize mass-market architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) products from repurposed FRP composite of decommissioned wind turbine blades.

The team, comprised of Georgia Tech faculty, laboratory staff, and graduate and undergraduate students in architecture and engineering, will develop commercial products using Generative Design software, architecture studios and workshops, structural and Finite element analysis, life-cycle analysis, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, and full-scale testing of prototypes in Georgia Tech’s 20,000 sq. ft. Digital Fabrication Laboratory

“The success of our project comes from the diverse talents and viewpoints represented on the team. It’s rare to have architects, engineers, and social, geospatial and environmental scientists working on the same fundamental problem,” said Gentry. “As we move to commercialize, we are building an entrepreneurial team and linking with industry. We look forward to seeing our re-use applications implemented in the next three years.” 

Prior to receiving the NSF PFI grant, researchers at Georgia Tech developed proprietary algorithms for a tool called the “Blade Machine” and created unique testing methodologies to rapidly characterize any wind turbine blade currently in production for architectural and structural analysis and design purposes. 

This fall the team is participating in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program with Angie Nagle from the University College Cork in Ireland and Chloe Kiernicki, Bachelor of Science in Architecture student at Georgia Tech, serving as entrepreneurial leads.  James Marlow, founding CEO of Atlanta-based Radiance Solar, is serving as the I-Corps team’s industrial mentor.

About the Georgia Tech School of Architecture

The Georgia Tech School of Architecture offers five distinct degree programs – a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, a Master of Architecture, a Master of Science in Architecture, a Master of Science in Urban Design, and a Ph.D. in Architecture.  Embedded in the heart of Atlanta and a part of a top-ranked research institution, the School of Architecture combines research, technology, and design to form a well-rounded, interdisciplinary, future-focused education as students prepare to make an impact on the built environment.  www.arch.gatech.edu

About Logisticus Group

Logisticus Group (LLC), a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), specializes in transportation logistics, project management, and technology solutions serving projects throughout North and South America. At Logisticus Group, we believe our processes, technology solutions, personnel, and business model deliver a more predictable, controlled, efficient, and expedited project. To learn more visit, www.logisticusgroup.com

 

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