Modeling, Analysis, and Diagnostics of High Strength-to-Weight Wind Turbine Blades Using Tensegrity Principles
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Access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy across the globe is one of the 2030 targets of the United Nations. This requires a substantial increase in the share of renewable energy within the global energy mix. Wind is a prominent part of the solution if the world is to achieve such a target. To meet the 2030 target, the industry is moving to off-shore sites where larger wind-turbines can be deployed. As the rotors become larger, the blades become longer which poses some challenges. The industry has relied on improvements in blade structural design, manufacturing processes and material properties to meet the requirements for longer blades that remain light-weight, strong and stiff. Currently, material performance criteria identify fiber-reinforced polymer composites as the prime candidate for rotor blades. However, use of such material presents several challenges in design analysis, manufacturing, vibration control, structural health assessment, and transportation. In this effort, the investigators will develop new theoretical and computational tools for designing large turbine blades using tensegrity principles, which will significantly alleviate some of the above described engineering challenges. It is expected that the proposed design framework will be disruptive and lead to much more efficient design of next generation wind-turbine blades.The tensegrity-based design of wind-turbine blades has several advantages including accurate modeling, aero-elastic tailoring, optimal sensing for structural health monitoring, and ability to contract to a smaller form factor for easy deployability. The proposed research will alleviate some of the pressing technical and scientific challenges in the wind energy community, and provide a feasible path to address the proposed expansion from 5 GW in 2012 to 150 GW in 2030. The scientific problems that will be addressed in this research also present a new systems engineering perspective, which is missing in current engineering practices. The state-of-the-art in each component technology (physics/data based modeling, sensing, actuation, control, computation) is quite matured. However, a systems perspective is missing. Typically these systems are first built and modeled, sensing and actuation architecture (including precision) is decided in an adhoc manner, followed by the design of the estimation/control law that is constrained by this adhoc sensing and control architecture. In this effort, we pursue an integrated approach for design of the structure (mass properties, topology, dynamics), and the sensing architecture (for optimal health monitoring), which provides a new perspective with strong theoretical foundations.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.