Composites are widely used in multiple industries including automotive, aerospace and renewable energy. Manufacturing plays a large role in the effectiveness of composites. For example, wind turbine blades are currently manufactured as a single piece, which creates many challenges with shipping, assembling and maintenance, especially as the industry continues to manufacture larger rotor blades to maximize power output. A more ideal solution would be to manufacture the blades in pieces and then assemble on-site. This is an issue, however, as one of the main challenges with composites is the difficulty in joining multiple components. Mechanically fastened joints introduce high stresses at the joint and are prone to corrosion. These issues are particularly pronounced in applications with a high number of loading cycles, such as wind turbine blades where fatigue is a primary concern. One alternative is to bond composite components using an adhesive. Adhesive bonding has many advantages, including fatigue resistance and corrosion resistance; however, adhesion also brings many challenges. Failure can occur from cohesive shearing/pealing, or from adhesive shearing/pealing. To address these issues, shape-memory alloys (SMAs) are employed to reinforce the adhesion and to aid in the bonding process. SMAs have many unique properties, including superelasticity and “memory” of a specific shape, thus proving to be an ideal material for this application. Integrating SMAs into composites will allow for many revolutionary designs, including the ability to manufacture the rotor blades in sections and assemble on-site, rather than manufacturing and shipping the blades as one piece.
The overarching objective of Peter’s research is to explore the current methods used for bonding composites, and to develop a method for integrating SMAs into segmented composites, leading to a stronger bonded structure capable of withstanding the forces required. This also decreases the complexity of transporting large composite pieces, such as wind turbine blades.