Wind power, despite being able to generate eco-friendly energy, also has a bad side. The turbine blades need to be replaced relatively frequently, leaving old equipment that must be disposed of. Experts have debated whether or not this disposal meets environmentally friendly criteria.
Dumping retired blades into landfills is the last thing anyone wants and completely takes away from the system’s presumed sustainability. Fiberglass, the material wind turbine blades are made from, is difficult to cut through, transport and repurpose into other things.
Some studies from Michigan State University may have found a solution. They’ve developed a new type of wind turbine material which combines glass fibers with both plant-derived and synthetic polymers. The mixture is a composite resin and can be recycled a lot more easily than pure fiberglass. Plus, it can be turned into delicious gummy bears.
“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,” John Dorgan, a chemical engineer from MSU, said.
So how do wind turbine blades become gummy bears? Essentially, the resin can be separated into different parts, where the glass fiber is removed and the remaining goop can be recast into new wind turbines and other materials.
Depending on how you manipulate the mixture’s constituents, a wide variety of items can be made, including windows, car tail lights, diapers, countertops, laptop covers, power tools, sports drinks and of course, gummy bear candies
“We recovered food-grade potassium lactate and used it to make gummy bear candies, which I ate,” Dorgan said.
For those grossed out over the idea of eating a gummy bear wind turbine, Dorgan added: “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.”
Despite only manufacturing prototypes, it seems like the future could be laced with veteran wind turbine blades.