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Engineered wood in wind turbine blades: Focus of Clouston’s NSF-funded summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Posted: August 12th, 2015
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2015-07-31 10.44.25

The UMass Offshore Wind Energy Program hosted an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) this summer. BCT Professor, Peggi Clouston, along with her PhD student, Rachel Koh from Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, mentored and supervised two of these students in research projects that explored the use of engineered wood laminates in offshore wind turbine blades. The students, Malia Charter from Smith College and Yashira Valentin Feliciano from University of Puerto Rico/Mayaguez, participated in hands-on research in Clouston’s lab, a three day field trip to Cape Cod and Boston, weekly seminars on professional development and on the state of the art in wind energy research.

Malia’s research involved computer modeling turbine blades using the Numerical Manufacturing and Design tool produced by Sandia National Laboratory (SNL). Three major blade components: spar cap, skin, and shear web were volumetrically replaced with laminated veneer lumber composites. These four blades along with an entirely wooden blade were subjected to static and inertial loads through finite element analysis in ANSYS (R)  APDL. The blades were evaluated by their tip deflection and by  comparing the maximum stress of the rebuilt component to the stresses at the same location in the SNL 61.5 m blade. The study suggested that the lighter weight of wood in conjunction with the stiffness of traditional spar caps can yield a better preforming blade than blades that use traditional composites alone.

Yashira’s research studied the comparative environmental impact of materials used in the production of wind turbine blades through Life Cycle Analysis. Both wood and fiberglass turbine blade manufacturing procedures were performed based on the production of only turbine blade. The analysis was performed with the use of GaBi 6 software where data was acquired and interpreted for diverse environmental concerns such as acidification, global warming potential and eutrophication.

Both students presented the results of their work at the campus wide REU poster session on Friday, July 31 at the Campus Center. Read more about the REU experience and project outlines here.

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