This is demonstrated by the research presented at the international meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Chicago a new resin system that can be dissolved and reused without losing its initial properties.
While wind energy is clean and renewable, the fact that wind turbines (made of fiberglass) are not recyclable is a problem when they reach the end of their life. Usually, giant turbine blades end up in landfills.
As Dorgan states in a press release to EurekAlert, “wind farms often replace turbine blades before the end of their useful life because they can generate more electricity with larger blades.”
To solve this problem, we tried to create blades that can contribute to the circular economy, giving new life to a specific product. In this regard, scientists from Michigan State University have already made a small contribution.
Recyclable resin can be used to make gums
The concept sounds, in practice, very strange, but it could be very close to becoming a reality on supermarket shelves, in the form of gummy candies. What is certain is that this resin can be recycled and reused in many other ways, including in windows or diapers.
The thermoplastic resin, made with glass fiber and polymers of plant origin and other synthetic materials, is very resistant and durablejust like the materials used in today’s turbines. Even so, the blades, when they reach the end of their life cycle, can be used to dissolve the resin and remove the fiberglass. The material can be used in new turbines because, according to the Michigan researchers, the physical properties are the same as those of turbines made from new materials.
This new resin can then be made into various things after it is melted. Its reuse can take place in some consumer products, such as tires, which makes this even more curious. And most interestingly, these tires are no different from what we are used to consuming, according to the researchers.
“A carbon atom derived from a plant, such as corn, is no different than a carbon atom from a fossil fuel. It is all part of the global carbon cycle and we have shown that we can move from biomass in the field to sustainable plastics and go back to food, ”says Dorgan.
So what is this thermoplastic resin?
When the thermoplastic resin is diluted in an alkaline solution, an acrylic material is released, which can facilitate window production. It also raises the temperature during the process, which helps create a material used in diapers. More, the alkaline solution also releases potassium lactate, which can be made into candy or energy drinks after purification.
After validating the material with regard to the properties necessary for its reuse, now it will be a question of concretely understanding how wind turbines can be (re) built with this new resin.