Materials engineering as part of design phase

Thursday February 18, 2016 14:57

A wind turbine installed on land requires different construction materials to one installed offshore in corrosive seawater. Likewise, the material used for a biogas storage cylinder will depend on the temperature and composition of the gas. So a smart choice of materials is essential to the success of energy innovations. ECN tests materials and advises businesses on choosing suitable materials for their wind, solar and biomass energy solutions. Our tip: include materials engineering as a part of the design phase.

“Often only the mechanical strength of a material is considered, and the designer forgets that this strength can be drastically reduced through corrosion, for example”, explains Gertjan Herder, research engineer at ECN. “Extra maintenance or replacing compromised materials can increase costs enormously. And poor material choice can lead to dangerous situations. This is something that affects everyone, so don't wait for the damage to be done, but make well-considered choices during the initial design stage.”

Simulating extreme conditions
Whether it be high temperatures, high pressure or corrosive liquids and gases, the ECN lab in Petten contains all the equipment needed to simulate extreme conditions. “For example, we can carry out exposure tests, subjecting materials to corrosive gases such as ammonia, to a pressure of 6 bars or temperatures up to 800°C, using a range of electrochemical methods to accelerate the corrosion process. We have a huge amount of in-house expertise on materials and metals and in particular alloys. As an applied research institute, performing experiments and giving advice is in our blood.”

Our work doesn't end with research and analysis; ECN also gives advice on alternative materials. A recent example is that of a manufacturer in the textile industry. Gertjan Herder: “He called us because he had a spare storage tank and now he was considering using it for organic acids. We used a series of corrosion tests to find the best use for the material. So a tank that was initially of no use to the client has now been given a new purpose.”

Want to know how we can help you in choosing or testing materials? Then feel free to contact Gertjan Herder of ECN. You can also find more information about our materials research services on our expertise page.

Category: Corporate, Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Biomass, Engineering & materials, Energy efficiency