Oct 12, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
Researchers in the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech have partnered with University College Cork (UCC) in the Republic of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in Northern Ireland, and the City University of New York (CUNY) to develop the science, logistics, and design concepts to re-purpose composite material wind blades. The oldest wind turbine blades are coming out of service now, due either to the end of their fatigue life, or in many cases, functional obsolesce. The wind industry has no means to recycle or reuse the blades or the materials in them. Consequently, by 2050, it is anticipated that 39.8 million tons of these materials will need to be recycled.
These massive structures are composed of high-performance glass and carbon fibers infused with polymeric resins. Separating the fibers and resins is cost-prohibitive, and so the materials cannot be recycled. The project, titled Re-Wind, will develop applications for the re-purposing of entire blades or large segments of blades.
The Design Thrust of the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project is led by Georgia Tech and includes Russell Gentry, PI, associate professor and director of the Master of Science in Architecture program, and Tristan Al-Haddad, part-time lecturer, along with Benjamin Tasistro-Hart, a senior in the School of Architecture. Benjamin received Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) funding from the NSF to participate in the project, and will be traveling to Ireland to assist the scientists and engineers at UCC and QUB with geometric modeling of the blades.
According to Gentry, the project is a perfect fit for the research and academic profile of the School of Architecture. “The faculty and students in the School of Architecture are widely recognized for their ability to deal with complex geometry,” Gentry said. “In addition, with the research history and resources in our Digital Fabrication Laboratory (DFL), we are capable of dealing with a wide range of material systems.”
Gentry, who chairs the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards committee on Composites for Civil Infrastructure noted, “We have spent the last 25 years developing fiber reinforced composite materials for use in buildings, bridges, and other major infrastructure like wind blades, but have failed to address how these materials can be re-cycled, or even better, re-purposed. We see the Re-Wind project as the first instance of a number of potential projects focused on the creative re-use of infrastructure materials.”
Thanks to Gentry's civil engineering affiliation, the School of Architecture is able to join forces for courses and research with faculty and students in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In the 2019 spring semester, Al-Haddad and Gentry will lead a workshop on wind blade reuse. Students from the School of Architecture will develop design propositions and prototypes for second lives of wind blades. The design propositions developed at Georgia Tech will be used by colleagues in Ireland to assess ecological, economic, and societal impacts associated with wind blade re-use. The same designs will be used by colleagues at Queen’s University Belfast and the City University of New York to assess the residual fatigue life of the composite wind blades and the structural efficacy of the re-use scenarios.
For more information, see the Re-Wind website and papers from the Re-Wind Design Thrust.
Gentry, Russell, Bank, Lawrence C., Chen, Jian-Fei, Arias, Franco and Al-Haddad, Tristan (2018), “Adaptive Reuse of FRP Composite Wind Turbine Blades for Civil Infrastructure Construction”, 9th International Conference on Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composites in Civil Engineering (CICE 2018), July 17-19, 2018, Paris, France.
Morrow, Ruth, Gentry, Russell and Al-Haddad, Tristan (2018), “Re-Wind: Architectural Design Studio and the Re-Purposing of Wind Turbine Blades”, Proceedings, SEEDS: Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland, 6-7 September 2018.
Lawrence C. Bank, Franco R. Arias, Ardavan Yazdanbakhsh, T. Russell Gentry, Tristan Al-Haddad, Jian-Fei Chen, Ruth Morrow (2018), “Concepts for Reusing Composite Materials from Decommissioned Wind Turbine Blades in Affordable Housing”, Recycling, 3(1), 3; doi:10.3390/recycling3010003.
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Wind blade parts supplied by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s WTTC for the Re-Wind Project, photo credit Mr. Lornie Thomas, WTTC, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.