Product Pick if the Week - Wind turbine coatings inspired by water drops on leaves

Experimental superhydrophobic coatings for wind turbine blades

There's lots of cool stuff going on with biomimicry these days: Experimental superhydrophobic coatings for wind turbine blades. Inspired by the way water balls up on certain types of leaves, these promise more efficient renewable energy, safer airplanes, and more:

What we are looking at is water bouncing off a piece of superhydrophobic nano-material. It does this because, as GE's Advanced Technology Program Leader for Nanotechnology, Margaret Blohm, explained, the surface structure of the material is such that the when the water droplet hits it, the surface tension isn't disrupted and it bounces, rather than splats.

The inspiration for this came originally from observations of lotus leaves which exhibit similar characteristics. Nasturtium leaves (pictured at top) behave in the same way. In nature this serves, essentially, to enhance photosynthesis as dirt has a harder time collecting on the leaves -- it just gets continually washed off by dew and rainwater.

But for wind turbines -- and this is what GE will be testing shortly using Southwest Windpower's residential-scale wind turbines -- the idea is to use these superhydrophobic coatings to reduce icing and improve efficiency. If the ice never really has a chance to form on the blade as it rotates, then it never has a chance to increase drag on the blade.

This obviously also has potential application in aircraft engines and wings: For aircraft engines flying at 30,000 feet, engineering solutions are used to prevent icing, but they typically cost significant engine efficiency. But what if we could place special nano-coatings on a wind blade or on aircraft engine parts that could repel water? And what if these coatings also could repel ice? If we could eliminate the need for expensive, energy intensive systems to prevent icing, we could realize a big improvement in efficiency.

For more information please contact Trevor Sievert at ts@windfair.net

Online editorial www.windfair.net
Posted by: Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, renewable energy, jobs, wind turbine, wind power, wind farm, rotorblade, onshore, offshore

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