Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP6

CONCEPT — Result In Brief

Project ID: 32949
Funded under: FP6-SME

Detecting defects in wind turbine blades

The global drive to develop alternative and renewable energy has led to significant increases in wind turbine (WT) farms over the last 20 years. The huge WT blades are composed of composite materials that can often hide minor defects or discontinuities that are difficult to detect with conventional methods.
Detecting defects in wind turbine blades
Materials defects in WT blades have resulted in catastrophic failures in the past, endangering lives and reducing public confidence leading to restrictions on continued development.

The ‘Development of a portable high energy nanofocus computed tomography system for glass reinforced plastic wind turbine blades’ (Concept) project was designed to create new technology for detection of disbands in composite materials on the scale of atoms or molecules (nanowidth) in the thickest portions of the WT blades. Growing energy demands highlight the need for excellent diagnostic equipment to perform total integrity inspection of the blades without taking them out of service, thus facilitating function and ensuring safe operation.

The Concept project resulted in the development of numerous technologies applicable to a variety of industries on their own, in addition to serving the original purpose when combined in a single system. Specifically, the researchers developed two high-energy X-ray tube prototypes with enhanced features compared to commercially available models. They also designed a light-weight high-voltage power supply suitable for portable applications and relying on gas instead of oil. Furthermore, they produced a detector, prototype scanner for detector manipulation and two climbing robots capable of carrying substantial loads.

Technology related to the power supply and detector could easily be integrated into a variety of existing products. The robots have immediate potential application in inspection of chimneys and bridge cables, among others.

Finally, the investigators prepared a business plan for commercialisation of the Concept system with particular focus on remote inspection of large offshore wind farms.

Thus, the Concept project produced numerous innovative technologies with wide potential for use in many industries. In addition, the Concept system itself significantly improved the ability to detect sub-microscopic defects in the composite materials used in very large WT blades, promising to enhance safe operation and restore public confidence in harnessing the wind’s energy. The results of the project should spur the further development of large wind farms, enhancing European competitiveness in the growing field while protecting the global environment.

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