The FASTBLADE facility will test composite materials that can be deployed in a range of full-scale structures including tidal blades, plane components and bridge sections.
Significantly it will be the first facility in the world designed to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades, promising to boost Scotland's international position at the forefront of tidal energy.
The test facility will deploy an efficient hydraulic technology – developed by University spin-off company Artemis Intelligent Power – which enables structures to be tested significantly faster and using less energy compared with existing technologies.
By replicating the complex forces that occur in real environments at an accelerated pace, the facility will enable product developers to intelligently design structures with less risk of the unknown.
The system will also recover energy between load cycles, reducing the cost of testing.
Pioneering measurement systems will enable developers to learn from test datasets to understand damage accumulation and optimise structures through data-driven design.
This promises significant benefits, particularly in testing tidal blades which are made up of composite materials that need to be capable of withstanding high fatigue loads in harsh ocean conditions for up to 20 years.
FASTBLADE is a key strand of a strategic partnership between Babcock and the University, developed with Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service. Babcock is the principal designer and host of the facility.
Built at Rosyth in Fife, the facility will also help fulfil the University’s commitments as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which includes targets to help improve digital skills across the whole of the region.
FASTBLADE benefits from £1.4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and £1m from the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School of Engineering, said of the facility: "This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies, and will be a great benefit to the tidal energy sector.”
Neil Young, Technology Director at Babcock added: "For us, this really is a great industrial partnership. Our engineers working alongside the University’s renowned academics has shown what the art of the possible is, in engineering and in working together. Whilst we are still at the early stages of development I know we are creating something that isn’t just a great opportunity for us, it will have real benefit for all the companies using the facility in years to come."