Wind turbine blades could someday be recycled into sweet treats

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society. See also the story in The Guardian.

Centered also has good coverage, including a video and a round-up of similar circular economy technological breakthroughs..

Wind power is an increasingly popular form of renewable energy. However, when it’s time to replace the huge turbine blades that convert wind into electricity, disposal is a problem. Now, scientists report a new composite resin suitable for making these behemoths that could later be recycled into new turbine blades or a variety of other products, including countertops, car taillights, diapers and even gummy bears.

The researchers will present their results today at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“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,” says John Dorgan, Ph.D., who is presenting the work at the meeting. “That’s the goal of the circular economy.”

The material could even be upcycled into higher-value products. Digesting the thermoplastic resin in an alkaline solution released poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), a common acrylic material for windows, car taillights and many other items. Raising the temperature of the digestion converted PMMA into poly(methacrylic acid), a super-absorbent polymer that is used in diapers. The alkaline digestion also produced potassium lactate, which can be purified and made into candy and sports drinks. “We recovered food-grade potassium lactate and used it to make gummy bear candies, which I ate,” Dorgan says.

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