Case Western Reserve University Wins Wind Research Contract with Bayer

Bayer Material Science LLC (Pittsburgh, PA) is moving forward with research and testing that could determine the viability of polyurethane composites reinforced with Baytubes® carbon nanotubes for potential use in 1.5+ megawatt wind turbine blades.

The project is funded in part by a $750,000 grant Bayer Material Science (BMS) announced from the Department of Energy (DOE) in July 2009. BMS is partnering with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Molded Fiber Glass Companies (Ashtabula, OH) to assist with research as part of the project, "Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Polyurethane Composites for Wind Turbine Blades." Molded Fiber Glass Companies (MFG) is a leader in the field of reinforced plastics and composites, serving diverse markets with a variety of composite material systems.

BMS will focus on materials innovations that can help harness the wind and optimize wind turbine performance. A core element of the research calls for optimizing the base formulations and functionality of carbon nanotubes to meet or exceed existing material performance. It is an initiative to help accelerate development of advanced wind turbines, with a focus on overcoming technology barriers to broader application.

This program has two main goals. The first is to demonstrate that polyurethane based composites are a viable alternative to incumbent materials. Polyurethane composites have been shown to have advantages in smaller scale applications which may add value to the wind energy industry. The second objective is to determine whether multi-wall carbon nanotubes can be effectively used to strengthen both incumbent and polyurethane systems.

The combination of these improvements can enable the production of larger, lighter and stronger turbine blades. They also may serve to increase the throughput of blade manufacturing facilities. With resources from a leading material engineering university (CWRU), a global materials technology provider (BMS) and a leading wind turbine blade manufacturer (MFG), the team is well structured and well qualified to carry out the project. Each of the team members has a strategic goal to bring advances quickly to the U.S. market and to help stimulate growth of the wind energy industry and its competitiveness in the global energy economy.

This project validates the continuous long term efforts between BMS and CWRU to assess and connect capabilities to identify win-win opportunities. For many years the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Department has interacted regularly with BMS, building working technical relationships and sending graduates to BMS. From the time BMS contacted CWRU about this specific DOE opportunity, a joint brainstorming session was held in less than two weeks and a full proposal was submitted less than 30 days later. This demonstrates not only value of continuous interaction, but the ability to align quickly for strategic opportunities. DOE funds for this two year program were released early this year.