Testing and classification of high-performance materials to protect wind turbine blades from leading-edge erosion by droplet impingement (BladeLEP)

Funded by:

SEAI Research, Development & Demonstration Funding Programme 2019 


NUI Galway, University of Limerick


Leading edge erosion of wind turbine blades is a main issue for the wind energy sector leading to reduced energy output and increased maintenance costs. To this end, the proposed project aims to investigate rain erosion resistance of leading edge protection material systems and characterise their material properties. Currently, there are a number of protective materials available that reduce or eliminate leading edge erosion on rotor blades. However, limited data and information is available to wind farm operators to assist in their decisions on adopting such materials. Therefore, in order to bridge the gap, the research team will compile characterisation and performance data for the available leading edge protection materials and technologies, through mechanical and droplet impingement testing.

The droplet impingement test will be performed in the Whirling Arm Rain Erosion Rig (WARER) facility at University of Limerick (UL), which was developed in 2009. This world-class, validated experimental testing facility allows test specimens to be subjected to droplet impingement at velocities typical for wind turbine blades. As this test closely mimics the erosion mechanisms present during the operation of wind turbines, it will allow the research team to assess and rank the materials investigated. These results will provide wind farm operators with knowledge required when selecting leading edge protective materials and increase the design life of their turbines. This will, in turn, reduce maintenance costs, along with creating a more efficient and sustainable Irish wind energy sector.

Project Objectives:

The overarching aim of the research is to assess the currently available LEP materials in order to assist wind farm operators in their decision making on adopting such materials. However, in order to achieve this aim, the following objectives will need to be realised:

  • To investigate droplet impingement erosion mechanisms relevant to composite wind turbine blades
  • To classify existing relevant protective materials and methods of protection
  • To characterise the most promising materials that, are likely to provide cost effective protection, in terms of factors such as resistance to droplet impingement erosion, application method, adhesion, cost
  • To perform droplet impingement testing on sample specimens of these materials
  • To evaluate and interpret the results, including erosion rates and a final ranking of the materials based on their viability for adoption.