Bayer exploring polyurethane, carbon nanotube use in large wind blades

Polyurethane-based systems reinforced with carbon nanotubes during the resin phase have been proven to create as much as a 50 percent increase in strength-to-weight ratio.

Bayer MaterialScience LLC (Pittsburgh, Pa., USA) reported on March 16 that it is conducting research and testing that could determine the viability of polyurethane composites reinforced with Baytubes carbon nanotubes for potential use in 1.5+ MW wind turbine blades.

The project is funded in part by a $750,000 grant Bayer MaterialScience LLC received from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in July 2009. A core element of the research calls for optimizing the base formulations and functionality of carbon nanotubes to meet or exceed existing material performance.

Bayer MaterialScience LLC is subcontracting with Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio) and Molded Fiber Glass Companies (Ashtabula, Ohio) to assist with research as part of the project, “Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Polyurethane Composites for Wind Turbine Blades.”

“We’re excited to work with industry and academia to study the viability of applying our polyurethane and other composites reinforced with carbon nanotubes to help the wind energy industry develop stronger, larger and lighter wind turbine blades,” said Mike Gallagher, director, Government Services Group, Bayer MaterialScience LLC. “The wind industry has indicated that development of stronger, lightweight composite technology could lead to as much as a 35 percent increase in turbine energy output.”

Bayer MaterialScience’s polyurethane-based systems reinforced with carbon nanotubes during the resin phase have been proven to create as much as a 50 percent increase in strength-to-weight ratio by modifying the resin component of the composite to percolation levels ranging from 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent.

In addition to providing a stronger composite structure, polyurethane-based systems use bio-based components and can be tailored to eliminate the post-cure step, which can reduce energy costs. This project will explore zero volatile organic compound (VOC) polyurethane-based systems as a low emissions technology to further reduce the carbon footprint.