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Development of a Portable High Energy Nanofocus Computed Tomography system for Glass Reinforced Plastic Wind Turbine Blades

Final Report Summary - CONCEPT (Development of a Portable High Energy Nanofocus Computed Tomography system for Glass Reinforced Plastic Wind Turbine Blades)

The CONCEPT project aimed to develop a novel and portable computed tomography system to perform total structural integrity inspection of present and next generation composite wind turbine blades, without taking them out of service. Thus, several significant defects in the thickest sections of the largest blades could be detected, facilitating the safe operation of wind farms. The proposed system contributed to the support of the growth of wind power intended under global economic, environmental and societal policy initiatives.

Composite materials are an essential component of the wind turbines technology. However, even small discontinuities, with little or no visible signs, are of critical importance in such materials, since they resulted to catastrophic failures in the past. The only method of defects' detection is radiography along with computed tomography image reconstruction routines.

The project developed two high energy X-ray tube prototypes, with several innovative features allowing higher energy and flux than current commercially available models. A light-weight high voltage power supply was also designed, utilising gas instead of insulating oil. Furthermore, the CONCEPT outcomes included an innovative detector, a prototype scanner system for the detector manipulation and two novel climbing robots which, using only friction, were able to carry substantial loads. The equipment was validated through in-situ comparison to existing inspection technologies.

Some of the project innovations were incorporated into marketable products prior to its completion, while others were being further developed to a commercial scale. The acquired knowledge was successfully presented to various relevant organisations. Dissemination activities also included the development of a project website, participation in conferences and publication of scientific papers.

Further research aimed to increase the X-ray prototype energy, focal spot size and flux in order to improve its performance. The technology related to the detector and the power supply was expected to be integrated into a number of existing products, while the scanner was incorporated into the CONCEPT prototype upscale. The constructed robot could be exploited in numerous industries, including the inspection of chimneystacks and bridge cables. Finally, a business plan for the commercialisation of the entire CONCEPT system was elaborated, targeting in particular the market of remote inspection of large offshore wind farms.