The world's first rapid testing facility for tidal turbine blades, which researchers say can speed up development of marine energy technologies while helping to reduce costs, has opened for business.
FastBlade's pioneering technology will stress test blades made from composite materials - which must withstand harsh ocean conditions for 20 years - more quickly, and using significantly less energy than any other facility of its kind, the team says.
Based in Rosyth, Fife, the £4.6 million facility – which was officially opened today (Friday, 13 May 2022) by UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord - aims to maintain Scotland's position at the forefront of tidal energy development.
FastBlade is a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and engineering company Babcock International and supported by a £1.8 million grant from the UK Government, via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The facility's 75-tonne reaction frame is capable of exerting powerful forces on turbine blades more than 50 feet long. Tests on blades are carried out using a system of powerful hydraulic cylinders, which, in less than three months, can simulate the stresses placed on the structures during two decades at sea.
It replicates the complex forces to which tidal turbines are exposed at sea using unique digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by engineers at the University of Edinburgh.
By providing developers with better data on how tidal turbine blades deteriorate over time, the research team hopes to help optimise the design of more durable, efficient structures. FastBlade will also offer client businesses and engineering students and apprentices the chance to develop their digital and data skills in its state-of-the-art research centre.
The facility, funded by EPSRC and the University of Edinburgh, has received support from Edinburgh Innovations, the University's commercialisation service, throughout its development.
As well as tidal blades, FastBlade's technology can also be used to test lightweight bridge sections and aircraft wing components. It is the first facility to open in a recently launched multi-partner innovation centre at Babcock's Rosyth site. The Arrol Gibb Innovation Campus (AGIC) will work with companies in the marine, nuclear power and energy-transition sectors to transform large-scale manufacturing through innovation and skills development.
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