Generating eco-friendly power with metal rotor blades

Wind turbines feed eco-friendly power into the grid. To keep their weight down, the majority of larger rotor blades are made from fiber-reinforced plastics. 7These materials are rarely recycled at present, in part because it is very complicated to do so. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz are therefore focusing on metal, and especially steel, as a blade material. In smaller installations, the greater weight of the steel blades is inconsequential; as installations get larger, light alloys can be used to keep blade weight down. Collaborating with colleagues from the Free University Brussels (VUB) in the HyBlade project, Fraunhofer IWU is developing the required aerodynamics as well as the necessary manufacturing process chains. Manufacturing steel blades offers numerous advantages: it makes turbines significantly more ecological, since more than 90 percent of the steel can be recycled, so using metal rotor blades makes wind power truly environmentally friendly, compared to similar blades made of fiber-reinforced plastic, the cost of rotor blade mass production drops by as much as 90 percent and the blades can be manufactured more accurately.

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