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Second Generation Glass Fiber Composites Fabricated from Retired Wind Turbine Blades

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0019975
Agency Tracking Number: 245661
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 15c
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001941
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-07-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-03-31
Small Business Information
1416 Reaves Road
Knoxville, TN 37912-5509
United States
DUNS: 025841608
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Ryan Ginder
 (901) 827-7502
Business Contact
 Bowie Benson
Phone: (951) 427-0648
Research Institution
 University of Tennessee
 Shridhar Nath
1547 White Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37916-2513
United States

 (518) 526-2218
 Nonprofit college or university

Glass fiber is the most common reinforcement material for all polymer composites (a $43.93 billion dollar market in 2017), including all wind turbine blades of which it’s estimated there will be over 4.8 million tonnes of by 2050. However, there exists no economical method of handling these composites once they reach end of life, meaning they are all currently destined for the landfill. For wind to be a truly sustainable source of alternative energy, recycling technologies must be developed that divert these glass fiber composite waste streams into new value-added products in the same way other plastics and metals currently are. Unfortunately, traditional technologies used to recycle other fibrous composites like carbon fiber cause significant damage to glass fiber. The proposed work aims to use a novel pyrolysis process to reclaim glass fiber while reducing any damage to their mechanical properties so that they can be used to produce 2nd generation recycled composites. The objective of Phase 1 is to reclaim glass fibers from retired wind turbine blades, retaining their mechanical properties, and then recycle them into useful composites once again, ultimately extending their life-cycle and reducing overall waste footprint. The turbine composite is first shredded and then pyrolyzed in order to remove the resinous material. By using an innovative and proprietary pyrolysis process, the reclaimed fibers retain a large portion of their mechanical properties rather than experiencing property degradation. The reclaimed fibers are then chemically compatibilized and then blended with polypropylene, a common thermoplastic, to make a useful second generation material. The reclaimed fibers from the pyrolysis process will be examined in terms of mechanical properties and physical condition and the process will be optimized accordingly. Chemical techniques will be performed so that the finest second generation composite can be made utilizing these fibers. Furthermore, the completed second generation composite will be tested and compared to existing industry standards to promote adoption. Polypropylene is the second most used thermoplastic material and its applications are near ubiquitous. Extensive advancements in sustainability can be anticipated with the introduction of second generation polypropylene composites. Furthermore, this process should work for other glass composites equipment and parts beyond wind. Energy generated from the removed polymer matrix can easily offset the energy requirements for plant operation. This innovative recycling technology also has the potential to bring many well-paying jobs across the United States. Current estimates indicate that the wind energy industry will be distributed across all of the lower 48 states by 2050. However, the wind energy sector still requires an effective means of dealing with end of life turbines; thus, pyrolysis recovery plants can be constructed across the country for dealing with the associated waste. Furthermore, commercialization of this technology may increase investment into further development of wind energy assets as the financial risks associated with waste disposal are ameliorated.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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