Polymers Used in Wind Turbine Blades

What are Polymers?

Polymers are a combination of two words poly means many and mers means parts
They are long-chain molecules (macromolecules) composed of many repeating parts (monomers).

All polymers are macromolecules, but not all macromolecules are polymers, as not all macromolecules have a monomer (a repeating unit) in their structure, as in the case of body fat.

The number of mers present in a polymer chain is called the degree of polymerization “n”.

Many important polymers such as polyethylene, are simply composed of hydrogen and carbon.

Others contain oxygen (like acrylic). nitrogen (nylons), fluorine (teflon) and silicon (silicones).

In our day to day, there are many polymers, natural and synthetic. Examples of natural polymers: cotton. corn starch, keratin, latex, silk, ivory, glycogen.
Examples of synthetic polymers: polyester, epoxy, polyethylene, PVC, silicones, polycarbonate, acrylic, nylon.

Polymers in Wind Turbine blades

In the wind turbine blades, polymeric resins are used to impregnate the glass and carbon fibers, through the vacuum infusion process.

The main resins are thermosetting, such as epoxy and polyester. But there are already thermoplastic resins being used (based on polyurethane) to reduce the blade curing cycle and enable recycling at the end of the turbine’s useful life.

Turbine blades also have core materials made from polymers such as balsa wood (natural polymer), PVC foam, and polyurethane foam (PU).

Many accessories used in the vacuum infusion process are polymeric, such as vacuum hoses, valves, and connectors made of PVC, vacuum plastic, and resin accelerated) (infusion screen).

Juliana Lucena, Dr. in Energy (UFPE), Production Engineer (USP), Professor at the Federal Network

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