By: Jane Marsh
Wind energy is an essential resource for today and the future of the globe. Another critical factor in the fight against climate change is recycling and reusing materials. A new development by scientists at the University of Michigan might mean components of wind turbine blades can be reused and transformed into other products – including food.
Continue reading to learn more about the future of wind energy and what role gummy bears will play.
What Do Gummy Bears Have to Do With Climate Change?
Gummy bears may not be the solution to climate change, but it may be surprising to learn that they may be part of the solution due to a recent scientific breakthrough. University of Michigan’s (UM) scientists developed a method to turn wind turbine blades into gummy bears.
Wind turbine blades are made from coated fibreglass, which is extremely difficult to recycle. While some edges can be repaired or recycled for different uses, most of these parts end up in a lane. Fortunately, the scientists at UM developed a recyclable composite resin.
They combined a synthetic and a plant-derived polymer with glass fibres to create this new resin. When the turbine blade has reached the end of its life span, the resin can be used in various unique ways – most interestingly, in sweets.
To break down the resin into the necessary components to create gummy bears, the researchers placed it in an alkaline solution. The resulting production of potassium lactate has various applications, including gummy bears.
While it may sound strange to eat a gummy bear that was once a wind turbine, scientists assure those hesitant that a carbon atom from a plant or animal is no different from a carbon atom from fossil fuels – they’re all part of the global carbon cycle.
The value of this new resin is that it can be recycled in an infinite loop, propelling it into the circular economy.
Why Is Wind Energy Important?
Wind turbine farms gained prominence in the 1980s with the first utility-scale farm in California. Since then, wind energy has been a booming industry and an intense focus for climate scientists. But what makes it so important?
From a practical standpoint, wind energy is a perfect energy source because it relies on something the earth has an infinite supply of – wind. Wind energy is also highly grid-compatible and decarbonizes energy sources. It also represents an energy option with economical and economical. Some wind farms are even being established offshore.
Technical developments in wind energy mean new, more efficient wind turbines are constantly coming out. With the development of a recyclable resin, today’s wind turbines can enter the circular economy and avoid creating more waste, which impacts the environment and furthers the progression of climate change.
Food and the Circular Economy
Another aspect of the fight against climate change relates to food production within a circular economy—current trends in food consumption place high importance on health and sustainability. Terms like “organic,” “free trade,” and “all-natural” dominate food advertising because consumers want to be able to trust what they put in their bodies.
In most cases, the circular economy comes into play in the food industry when discussing packaging. Food packaging and packaging materials account for 63% of all solid waste in the United States.
They are creating a gummy bear from a wind turbine blade, while a little; while is an example of a trend in food production that places importance on sustainability. While most foods can’t be derived from machinery components, there are many other ways to integrate nutrition into the circular economy.
Much like the resin the Michigan scientists developed, food in the circular economy enters a loop in which products are consumed, and byproducts can return to the earth as fertilizer.
The Future of Turbine Gummies
The future of wind turbine gummy bears is not yet certain. Scientists are still in the testing phases with their composite resin, but it presents an exciting option for sustainability. If further testing and application phases go well, these wind turbine blades could be one example of many products that have infinite afterlives through other products, including food.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment. Co.