The method to recycling wind turbines is promising, but still has to solve a problem
(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – A chemical process discovered by the University of Aarhus, Denmark, can make an interesting breakthrough and create more opportunities to recycling wind turbines. The substance used by the researchers, in fact, is capable of breaking the epoxy compound of the turbines and at the same time extracting intact glass fibers.
Epoxy resins are thermosetting polymers composed of a resin-based formulation and a hardener. Mixed in a certain ratio, they give rise to a glossy vitrified layer.
Researchers demonstrated that by using a ruthenium-based catalyst and two solvents (isopropanol and toluene), the epoxy matrix can be separated, one of the original epoxy polymer bricks can be recovered – bisphenol A (BPA) – completely intact glass fibres in a single process.
The newly discovered process shows that recycling wind turbines is possible, as it can be applied to most existing ones, including those currently in production. Other epoxy-based materials can also be treated with the same method.
A first step towards the recycling wind turbines
The results have just been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature and the University of Aarhus, together with the Danish Technological Institute, has filed a patent application for the trial.
However, the method is not yet immediately scalable, since the catalytic system is not efficient enough for industrial implementation, and ruthenium is a rare and expensive metal. This is therefore a first step towards success, which must now be consolidated with further research.
“However, we consider it a significant breakthrough in the development of durable technologies that can create a circular economy for epoxy-based materials – said Troels Skrydstrup, one of the main authors of the study – This is the first publication of a chemical process that can selectively disassemble an epoxy composite and isolate one of the most important constituent elements of the epoxy polymer, as well as glass or carbon fibers, without harming them in the process”.