Blades of bamboo -- An Asian solution

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Bamboo grows incredibly fast and has been used for centuries to make everything from cloth to food. Now researchers in Denmark at Risø's wind turbine test centre, run by the Danish Technical University (DTU), have teamed with the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR) in China to make a scientific assessment of bamboo as a composite material for wind blades. After an initial evaluation, Povl Brøndsted at DTU's materials research department says bamboo offers considerable potential for the Asian wind market, especially in China.

"If we look at the full lifecycle, blades made with bamboo and a bio resin are easily disposable," Brøndsted says. In addition, the production of bamboo and manufacture of bamboo blades can all be done in developing areas, where there is a low cost work force and a need for employment. Bamboo is actually a grass that can be harvested every four to seven years, grows to 40 metres without fertilizer and locks up CO2 much faster than other materials. Brøndsted says bamboo is better than hemp and other natural fibres such as flax and jute, stiffer than wood, and has a better fatigue performance. A bamboo composite, for example, is much stronger than birch, and 20-30 metre composite blades may be possible without glass fibres. Brøndsted claims he "cannot see a limitation" to building blades up to 40 metres, although some glass or other fibres may be necessary, particularly for the root section.

The blades will initially be made from bamboo shreds glued together using epoxy, but Brøndsted hopes to replace the synthetic epoxy material with a bio-based adhesive. Risø DTU and ICBR have now signed a partnership agreement under which Risø will test and certify the bamboo material, while the Chinese institute will develop the technology for manufacturing the blades. The development will be unrestricted by patents. "We have agreed to openly publish all results once a year. We do not want to reserve our knowledge for one particular company," says Brøndsted.

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