Researchers at the DreamWind project are looking to develop a chemical substance that will separate composite materials from each other, allowing fibreglass components used in wind turbines to be recycled.
Denmark’s Aarhus University will collaborate with partners including Vestas and the Danish Technological Institute to develop new composite materials for wind turbine blades.
Associate Professor Mogens Hinge of Aarhus University’s department of engineering said;
Components made of fibreglass have to go through a difficult procedure before they can be reused, this entails separating the glass from the plastic, and you can only do this if you heat the material for a long time at 600 degrees Celsius, which is far from profitable from both an energy and an economic point of view.
Because it’s almost virtually impossible to recycle the composite materials used, old wind turbine blades are taken to enormous graveyards where the components are crushed and buried in landfill
According to researchers, the acute problem in the wind turbine industry inspired them to develop a solvent with the opposite properties, so that instead of binding materials to each other, it can separate them chemically with limited or no heating at all.
The idea is that the glass should be reused when it has been cleaned – for new fibreglass components for structures such as wind turbines, aircraft or cars. The researchers are initially focusing on designing an agent for fibreglass, and they say the first laboratory results are promising.
Innovation Fund Denmark has invested a total of 17.6 million Danish Krones (approximately $2.67 million) in the project, which, in the long run, can influence the recycling of composite materials outside the wind turbine industry. The parties expect to be ready with a chemical compound for separating fibreglass within four years.