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Wind turbines may soon be recycled into gummy bears

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a new composite resin for wind turbine blades that allows them to be recycled into a variety of new items, including sweets.

Next time you drive past your local wind farm, you may be looking at a future bag of gummy bears. Yes, really.

Michigan State University has developed a composite resin using glass fibres combined with both plant-derived and synthetic polymers. This could be used to create wind turbine blades that can later be broken down and recycled to make new products.

One of these is confectionery. Tasty.

Humorous gummy bear recycling aside, wind turbines can cause problems when being disposed of. They’re often upwards of 50 metres long and are most commonly thrown into landfill. Considering that wind power is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy in the UK, we need a way to responsibly discard our blades.

How do we end up eating wind turbines, though? It seems like something out of a Roald Dahl book.

This newly created resin is digested in an alkaline solution, which produces potassium lactate that is then purified. Food-grade potassium lactate can be repurposed into sweets and sports drinks.

John Dorgan, an author on the paper that created the resin, said they turned the lactate into gummy bear candies. ‘Which I ate’, he was keen to add.

You can do more than just consume the stuff, too. The alkaline digestion also releases poly(methyl methacrylate), or PMMA, which is commonly used in windows and car taillights.

Still unconvinced? Can’t picture yourself wolfing down a fresh turbine from the fields of Devon? Dorgan is here to ease you worries.

‘A carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel. It’s all part of the global carbon cycle. We’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.’

‘Our resin system […] releases from whatever matrix it’s in so that it can be used over and over in an infinite loop. That’s the goal of a circular economy.’

Blades using this new resin are hoped to be put into field testing some time soon. Gummy bears built from your local wind farm could well be our reality in the not-so-distant future. Eat your heart out, Haribo.


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