On 17 March 2022, the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) consortium announced a new step forward in the industry’s ambitious transition project towards a circular economy with the manufacture of the first 100% recyclable prototype wind turbine blade using Arkema’s Elium® liquid thermoplastic resin and new high performance glass fabrics.
Launched in September 2020, the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project is led by IRT [Technological Research Institute]-Jules Verne, and brings together leading industrial players and technical centres with its ambitious project to demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental relevance of thermoplastic wind turbine blades on a full scale, with an eco-design approach to facilitate recycling.
Following a year of material development and testing, as well as process trials, the world’s largest thermoplastic blade at 62 meters, made from our Elium® liquid resin and 100% recyclable, was designed and built at the LM Wind Power plant in Ponferrada, Spain.
The Elium® liquid thermoplastic resin is perfectly suited to the manufacture of large parts by resin infusion. The composite parts made from our resin deliver the same performances as those made from thermoset resins with an added unique benefit: recyclability.
Elium®-based composite components can be recycled using an advanced chemical recycling method; this involves fully depolymerizing the resin, separating the fiber from the resin, and recovering a new virgin resin and high performance glass fibers ready for reuse. Developed by Arkema and CANOE, this method is tested on all composite parts, including the waste generated by the production of this prototype blade.
The next steps are as follows:
- Carry out full-scale structural lifetime testing to verify the performances of the composite material used for manufacturing the wind turbine blade, and its feasibility for future sustainable blade production;
- Validate the recycling process for the production waste and for this initial blade after dismantling.
By the end of the project in 2023, the consortium will have met the challenge of bringing the wind energy sector into the circular economy loop in a sustainable manner, in accordance with eco-design principles.
Arkema is pleased to be part of this consortium and contributing, with its high performance materials, to the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions for wind power.