Wind turbines

EPSRC Industrial CASE Studentship in partnership with Vestas Technology, Isle of Wight.

Vestas Technology has made considerable progress in the manufacture of large wind turbine blades in the last five years. With the assistance of the university, a labour-intensive wet lay-up process was replaced by a novel version of resin infusion, resulting in a 24 hour production cycle for a 40m long blade. Economic and performance pressures require that blades continue to increase in size, and that production times are reduced still further. To respond to these challenges, we need a deeper understanding of how the materials used in the structure behave during the manufacturing process, and how production efficiency can be increased.

The research project is working towards the development and validation of manufacturing process models, ranging from small-scale materials interactions to large-scale flow and consolidation phenomena. Some of the work is likely to involve the adaptation of commercial process simulation software, but original algorithms will need to be developed and validated. The phases of the project include:

  • Collation of existing process measurements. Identification of relevant physical flow regimes.
  • Materials characterisation. Basic measurements of permeability, absorption, resin viscosity and cure characteristics.
  • Software development and familiarisation.
  • Development and experimentation with extended algorithms for heat transfer, resin cure kinetics, void formation and compressibility.
The student was based at the University and investigated the interaction between liquid resins and porous core materials, both experimentally, and numerically using code developed by a former university employee. The doctoral thesis, Air permeability of balsa core, and its influence on defect formation in resin infused sandwich laminates, is available via the Plymouth Electronic Archive and Research Library (PEARL).

Informal enquiries about the project can be made to Dr Richard Cullen.