A new type of wind turbine blade could help wind farms capture more energy.

The new blade, which was designed by Marcio Loos, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering of Case Western Reserve University, and investigators from Bayer MaterialScience in Pittsburgh, and Molded Fiber Glass Co. in Ashtabula, Ohio, is made of polyurethane reinforced with carbon nanotubes. It is lighter and eight times tougher and more durable than blades currently in use.

"The idea behind all this is the need to develop stronger and lighter materials which will enable manufacturing of blades for larger rotors," Loos said.

Large wind turbines do not gather as much energy as they could because of the size and the weight of the blades. The heavier a blade is the more wind is necessary to turn the blade to gather energy. Likewise, the more flexible the blade is the more likely it is to warp, losing efficiency.

Loos’ blade stacked up well against current industry standards, with the polyurethane outperforming epoxy reins on fatigue tests by lasting eight times longer, while the carbon nanotubes were lighter and stronger than carbon fiber or aluminum reinforcements, five and 60 times stronger, respectively.

The research for the new blade was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus grant and Bayer MaterialScience.