University experiments with turning wind turbines into candy

A new report at Interesting Engineering is documenting that officials at Michigan State University are suggesting that used wind turbine blades be turned into candy.

The report notes: “Gummy bears that were wind turbines in their past life may not sound too appetizing. But, what if it’s edible and tastes like ordinary gummy bears? Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?”

The report concerns a “distinct turbine material” that later can be recycled into a new turbine blade, or many other products such as countertops, car taillights, diapers, “and even gummy bears.”

“This innovation can have far-reaching consequences. Over the years, wind power has become an increasingly popular form of renewable energy. But, when it’s time to replace the huge turbine blades that convert wind into electricity, disposal is an enormous problem,” the report explained.

Bloomberg estimated in 2020 that some 8,000 wind turbines would be removed from service in each of the next few years.

So, the report said, the problem of disposal will be getting worse.

But the new idea offers options, it explains.

“Scientists presented the results of their study — the new composite resin suitable for making these behemoths — at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). A composite resin suitable for making wind turbine blades could be recycled into a variety of products, including these gummy bears,” it said.

John Dorgan, who presented the idea, said, “The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it’s in so that it can be used over and over again in an infinite loop.”

At this time turbine blades are fiberglass and can be half a football field long.

“A handful of companies have found ways to recycle fiberglass into lower-value materials but most discarded blades end up in landfills,” the report said.

Dorgan noted, “Larger wind turbine blades are more efficient, so companies keep making bigger and bigger ones. Often, wind farms will actually replace the turbine blades before the end of service life because the farms can generate more electricity with bigger blades.”

He and others fabricated the new material by mixing glass fibers with polymers from plants and a synthetic component.

They suggest their material could be used for anything from bathroom sinks to laptop computer covers.

The National Pulse explained the material, “When dissolved in an alkaline solution, the newly formulated resin produces potassium lactate. The compound, researchers allege, can be purified and converted into sweets or sports drinks.”

Dorgan said the project chiefs found, “A carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel. It’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.”

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