UMaine ASCC awarded $75,000 to recycle wind blades into 3D-printing material

Advanced Structures & Composites Center (ASCC) is one of 20 winners of the Phase One prize of the DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office to boost recycling for a circular wind energy economy.

When a wind blade can no longer be used– because of weathering, damage, or anything in between– the ASCC can shred it, recover the material fibers and use them in printing filler when doing large-scale 3D printing projects. This way we are recycling the wind blade material while also avoiding the energy-intensive production of 100% of the 3D printing filler. This project aims to replace short-carbon fibers with shredded and milled material from wind blades. 

Thousands of wind turbines are expected to reach their end-of-life in the coming years, and clever solutions are needed for sustainable management of the materials. Regardless of their high costs, the carbon-fiber wind blades lose all sustainability benefits due to their inability to degrade at the end of their working life. A wind blade can be the size of a football field. If even one wind turbine worth, three blades, is recycled in this way, we prevent up to three football field-sized amount of waste from going into landfills. 

In addition to the $75,000 prize, the ASCC is eligible to win an additional prize of $500,000 and the opportunity to work with DOE national laboratories in the final phase of the competition. 

The WIND REWIND team members leading this project submission include faculty and researchers from the UMaine Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, the ASCC, and industry (Dr. Roberto Lopez-Anido, Dr. Reed Miller, Dr. Amrit Verma, John Arimond, Dr. Habib Dagher, Hannah Berten, and Ed Pilpel). This project is led by Dr.  Lopez-Anido with coordination support from Dr. Miller and Dr. Luis Zambrano-Cruzatty.

The ASCC is in a wholly unique position to be a leader in the intervention of repurposing wind blade materials. The ASCC has research in Ocean Engineering & Energy with projects such as VolturnUS Hull Technology and New England Aqua Ventus. The ASCC also has world-leading research in Additive Manufacturing (large-scale 3D Printing) with projects such as BioHome3D, the world’s only 100% bio-based 3D printed house, and research in material science with Cellulose Nanocomposites and Structural Thermoplastics & Smart Materials

The ASCC and the University of Maine are committed to the strategic plan of GEM (Green Energy & Materials) to sustainably utilize Maine’s natural resources to solve our most pressing challenges while maximizing student opportunities. We are committed to a sustainable future for Maine and beyond.

Read more about the award on the WETO website

Contact: Amy Blanchard