At the end of their 15-year service life, wind turbine blades composed of glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) laminate composites are landfilled. Many nations are banning composite materials from their landfills, posing challenges to recycling these structures. This problem has been tackled by researchers from Lithuania, who propose a pyrolysis-based approach to decomposing GFRP into constituent components and eliminating disposal issues.

Fiberglass thermoplastic and fiberglass thermoset constituents of wind turbine blades were pyrolyzed with and without zeolite catalysts to study the extraction of phenol. The impact of carbon black, carbonSource: KTUSource: KTU nanotubes and graphene nanoparticles on the yield of useful components was also assessed. In all the cases, up to 66% of volatile compounds and 30% of fiber residue were extracted, and the added fiber nanoparticles increased the yield of phenol.

“The volatile components are basically phenol, which can be used for further production of resin, and the fiber residue can have numerous applications after purifying it chemically – for fiber-reinforced concrete, polymer composites, fiber flooring. Our method is virtually waste-free with some small emissions, which is standard in this kind of conversion operation,” explained the researchers.

A paper on this pyrolysis research conducted by scientists from Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and the Lithuanian Energy Institute is published in Fuel.

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