It is proposed to establish an innovative Structural Composites Research Facility (SCRF) for faster fatigue or cyclic load testing of large structures. This will initially be focussed on fibre-reinforced composite material structures, such as stiff tidal turbine blades (e.g. fabricated from carbon fibre and glass fibre reinforced polymer resins).
The facility will be the first of its kind in the world, and will use a brand new, ultra-efficient digital displacement regenerative pumping hydraulic system. For fatigue testing of tidal turbine blades, the novel hydraulic actuation system will only use 10-15% of the energy input required by conventional hydraulic testing systems, and will test structures 10 times faster than possible with existing hydraulic systems (test frequency increase from 0.1 Hz to 1 Hz). This will enable more and faster impact-led academic research into fundamental engineering options for new materials technology and accelerated evaluation of tidal turbine blades leading to more rapid certification and deployment to market. Such a capability is critical to the success of this emerging composite materials technology for renewable energy and will accelerate the conversion of available tidal marine energy, which is currently under-exploited at a time of increasing national demand for energy.
Nationally, the facility will also underpin fundamental research in composite materials across all sectors, to be targeted at applications in high value manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, automotive, and civil engineering applications (e.g. structural health monitoring in bridges and buildings subject to ongoing fatigue under cyclic loading). Academics will benefit by access to a state-of-the art accelerated fatigue testing facility, opening new research opportunities on fundamental materials and process topics.
Industry will benefit by reduced design risk from better testing data and by reduction of product testing time, within the product development cycle times needed in the renewable energy, aerospace, naval defence, marine and infrastructure sectors.
Animated simulation of the FASTBLADE Structural Composites Research Facility.