Since 1989, Sandia has partnered with Montana State University to test and report key data and trends of fiber-reinforced polymers (composites) and other materials used to construct wind-turbine blades.
The average wind turbine installed in 1989 had a power rating of 0.225 MW and a rotor diameter of 27 m. By the end of 2012, industry averages had increased to a 1.95 MW turbine and a 93.5 m rotor diam. This growth in blade length has put increasingly difficult technical and economic demands on blade designers, requiring a constantly improving understanding of composite material behavior in realistic wind applications.
The MSU-Sandia research team collected the results of over 12,000 tests into a publicly available database in addition to technical papers explaining key trends to meet this critical industry need. Recent work has focused on a variety of industry-relevant areas
- investigating the phenomena of creep in composite fatigue loading,
- testing new materials such as urethane resins and aligned strand material forms that may have manufacturing and cost advantages,
- studying adhesive fracture to better understand the cause and progression of damage in adhesive joints,
- developing test methods and testing core material strength and fatigue, and
- developing a substructure test facility to expand test capabilities beyond coupon testing that cannot easily capture the realistic and complex loading modern wind-turbine blades experience.
The latest database (v.22.0) and related publications can be accessed at the Montana State Univ. Composite Technologies Research Group website.