The goal is to support a renewable power source that could double American electric power plant capacity.
Offshore wind energy infrastructure in the United States may soon include the use of 3D-printed concrete.
Constructing turbines at least 30 miles off the coast is costly, particularly in terms of shipping parts.
That said, Purdue University engineers are currently researching new ways to use 3D-printed concrete to construct the offshore wind energy infrastructure. This could make it possible to use a less expensive material that could be floated to a turbine site from an offshore plant.
“One of the current materials used to manufacture anchors for floating wind turbines is steel,” explained Lyles School of Civil Engineering professor at Purdue, Pablo Zavattieri. “However, finished steel structures are much more expensive than concrete.”
Additional costs associated with conventional concrete manufacturing methods have to do with the mold that is necessary for shaping the material into the desired structure. However, when 3D printing a material, the need for a mold is entirely eliminated, as is the cost associated with that phase of the process.
Researchers are working with RCAM Technologies on the offshore wind energy infrastructure materials.
RCAM Technologies is a startup created for the development of concrete additive manufacturing for use both onshore and offshore renewable energy technology. That firm has interest in building structures out of 3D-printed concrete, such as both the turbine towers and their anchors.
“Purdue’s world-class capabilities and facilities will help us develop these products for offshore products for the U.S. Great Lakes, coastal and international markets,” said RCAM Technologies CEO Jason Cotrell. He underscored the importance of Purdue and other university participation in the industry in order to provide highly knowledgeable and skilled students for the cutting-edge technology needs of that industry.
The team is also working on a form of robotic arm that would be built with a concrete pump to make it possible to build those turbine structure and the anchors that will needed to support them.
The work on the 3D-printed concrete for offshore wind energy infrastructure was also funded by the National Science Foundation INTERN program.