Thermoplastic Fibre Metal Laminates for Blade Applications

Published 29 April 2020

Renewable energy technologies are key for a low-carbon future and mitigating climate change. However, a challenge facing the wind industry in particular is the ability to make these structures as green as possible, in addition to their recycling at the end of their product lifetimes.

Over the next decade, our ability to environmentally recycle or dispose of hundreds of thousands of tons of old wind and/or tidal turbine blades will be tested. Therefore, there is a vital need to develop advanced hybrid ‘green’ low-cost structures characterised by superior mechanical performance, extensive service life and recyclability is vital.

Fibre metal laminates (FMLs) are hybrid materials consisting of alternating layers of monolithic metallic sheet and plies of fibre reinforced polymeric materials. Taking advantage of the hybrid nature, these composites offer several benefits such as their high resistance levels to impact, durability, low-weight, and versatile manufacturing, as well as good resistance to fatigue, which is a distinctive characteristic of polymer composites.

In this project, the performance of a new generation of fibre-metal composites based on a thermoplastic matrix developed specifically for the offshore renewable industry is being examined. The study aims to  investigate the novel concept of low cost thermoplastic composite FMLs through in-situ polymerisation as presented for the first time in a feasibility study carried out at the University of Edinburgh funded by CIMComp-The EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub[1]. A follow-on project on thermoplastic FML is currently ongoing at the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with ORE Catapult funded by Centre for Advanced Materials for Renewable Energy Generation (CAMREG) [2].

Thermoplastic FMLs offer even greater advantage over conventional FMLs such as their high recycling potential and extensive service performance. The rapid acceleration of thermoplastic FML will go a long way of ensuring a green, sustainable manufacturing future for large wind turbine blade structures. FMLs also offer some distinct processing and cost advantages due to the lower raw material cost and greater automation.

ORE Catapult will provide significant complementary skills and experience to meet the scientific and technical objectives of the proposed project. Our support will facilitate further investigation of the thermoplastic-FMLs and will help accelerate the journey to market for such multi-functional structures. Finally, we will use our extensive network of renewable SMEs and OEMs, to help direct the specification and development of the thermoplastic-FML concept in the renewable sector.

Schematic drawing of the proposed thermoplastic FML solution. [3]

[1] CIMComp – The EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub 2018.

[2] CAMREG – Centre for Advanced Materials for Renewable Energy Generation 2019.

[3] Mamalis D, Obande W, Koutsos V, Blackford JR, Ó Brádaigh CM, Ray D. Novel thermoplastic fibre-metal laminates manufactured by vacuum resin infusion: The effect of surface treatments on interfacial bonding. Mater Des 2019;162:331–44. doi:10.1016/J.MATDES.2018.11.048


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