Engineers with X-ray vision

    How do multi-scale effects influence the reliability of a wind turbine blade? Our specialists in Engineering are chasing the answer, with help from a very special piece of equipment at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

    By scanning specimens from full-scale blade components in a µ-X-ray tomography machine, LM Wind Power engineers are able to get unique insights into their inner structure. The machine visualizes material in a dynamic way, allowing the engineer to study 3D aspects at the micro as well as the macro level.

    Microscopic-level effects matter
    The advanced X-ray technology provides a level of detail which has previously been impossible to achieve for centimeter-sized specimens. According to Michael Wenani Nielsen, LM Wind Power Bondline Engineering Manager and PhD, the technology will work as a useful supplement to regular microscopic studies of components where 2D cross sections are hard to define or simply not suitable.

    "A modern wind turbine blade is typically over 50 meters long. Still, even microscopic-level effects in the composite material can influence the manufacturing process and the performance and reliability of the blade where defects develop from the micro-level,” Michael said. “With the µ-X-ray tomography scanner, we get an exceptionally detailed view and are able to see multi-scale phenomena from the specific geometry in the full-scale blade.”

    And how do these new capabilities link to sustainability? Basically, the X-ray technology paves the way for a deeper understanding which will drive the development of new designs and optimized production processes — benefitting both our company and the world by reducing the cost of energy.

    “When we are able to design and produce wind turbine blades with an even higher reliability in the materials, we reduce the risk of failure which again helps reduce insurance premiums that today present an added cost to the price of wind energy,” Michael said. “The knowledge we obtain might therefore prove to be useful for the entire industry when improving and optimizing the supply chain.”

    About the technology
    The X-ray technology has been used in the medical industry for several years, but expanded in recent years to the field of material research for quantifying material quality, micro-structure and defect development. The technology is based on detection of density contrasts in the material. As such, it is useful for identifying multi-scale phenomena like balsa wood in a fiberglass laminate, which contains fiberglass, resin (adhesive) and wood with air-filled micropores due to its biological origin.

    Michael Wenani Nielsen is one of our specialists in Composites Engineering and Technology who works with the special X-ray technology at DTU.

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