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Scottish breakthrough for recycling wind turbine blades

Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde has signed a memorandum of understanding with Aker Offshore Wind and Aker Horizons to accelerate recycling of glass fibre used in wind turbine blades.

The partners aim to advance the development of recovery processes for used glass fibre products. They plan to commercialise a thermal recovery process developed at lab scale by Strathclyde University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. This new approach is said to yield near-virgin quality glass fibre from glass-reinforced polymer (GRP) composites.

The recycling solution transforms composite waste into reusable fibre reinforcement and could meet 50% of the demand for glass fibre if implemented worldwide. Researchers expect a global increase in wind turbine blade waste from around 400 000 tonnes per annum in 2030 to possibly above two million tonnes by 2050.

‘This is a challenge not only for the wind power industry but for all industries reliant on GRP materials in their production and manufacturing,’ says Liu Yang, head of the advanced composites group at the University of Strathclyde. ‘Retaining and redeploying the embodied energy in the fibres is essential as we move to a more circular economy.’

Aker Offshore Wind and Aker Horizons possess a broad expertise in the area of chemical processing and carbon capture. They will contribute the required funding and experience to establish the solution on an industrial footing.

Today, glass fibre has many applications, including vehicle manufacturing, maritime vessels, oil and gas production, construction and sporting goods.

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