Carbon-fibre epoxy honeycombs mimic performance of balsa wood
Wood has a part to play in wind energy too. In wind farms across North America and Europe, sleek turbines equipped with state-of-the-art technology convert wind energy into electric power. But tucked inside the blades of these feats of modern engineering is a decidedly low-tech core material: balsa wood.
Now, using a cocktail of fibre-reinforced epoxy-based thermosetting resins and 3D extrusion printing techniques, materials scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed cellular composite materials. These structures are based on the cellular architecture of balsa wood and possess both stiffness and unprecedented light weight qualities.
Because of their mechanical properties and the fine-scale control of fabrication, the researchers say these new materials mimic and improve on balsa, and even the best commercial 3D-printed polymers and polymer composites available.
Image credit: Harvard University