Development of Cellulose-Reinforced Polyurethane Coatings: A Novel Eco-Friendly Approach for Wind Turbine Blade Protection

Shrirang M. Pathak, V. Praveen Kumar, Venkataramana Bonu, Leon Mishnaevsky, R. V. Lakshmi, Parthasarathi Bera*, Harish C. Barshilia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Wind energy is considered a clean energy source and is predicted to be one of the primary sources of electricity. However, leading-edge erosion of wind turbine blades due to impacts from rain drops, solid particles, hailstones, bird fouling, ice, etc., is a major concern for the wind energy sector that reduces annual energy production. Therefore, leading-edge protection of turbine blades has been an important topic of research and development in the last 20 years. Further, there are critical issues related to the amount of waste produced, including glass fiber, carbon fiber, and various harmful volatile organic compounds in turbine fabrication and their end-of-life phases. Hence, it is vital to use eco-friendly, solvent-free materials and to extend blade life to make wind energy a perfect clean energy source. In this study, cellulose microparticles (CMP) and cellulose microfibers (CMF) have been used as fillers to reinforce water-based polyurethane (PU) coatings developed on glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) substrates by a simple spray method for the first time. Field emission scanning electron microscopy images show the agglomerated particles of CMP and fiber-like morphology of CMF. Fourier transform infrared spectra of CMP, CMF, and related coatings exhibit associated C–H, C=O, and N–H absorption bands of cellulose and polyurethane. Thermal gravimetric analysis shows that CMP is stable up to 285 °C, whereas CMF degradation is observed at 243 °C. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy of C 1s and O 1s core levels of CMP, CMF and related coatings show C–C/C–H, C–O, C–OH, and O–C=O bonds associated with cellulose structure. The solid particle erosion resistance properties of the coatings have been evaluated with different concentrations of CMP and CMF at impact angles of 30° and 90°, and all of the coatings are observed to outperform the PU and bare GFRP substrates. Three-dimensional (3D) profiles of erosion scans confirm the shape of erosion scars, and 2D profiles have been used to calculate volume loss due to erosion. CMP-reinforced PU coating with 5 wt.% filler concentration and CMF-reinforced PU coating with 2 wt.% concentration are found to be the best-performing coatings against solid particle erosion. Nanoindentation studies have been performed to establish a relation between H3/E2 and the average erosion rate of the coatings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1730
Issue number4
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Wind turbine blade
  • Cellulose microparticles
  • Cellulose microfibers
  • Polyurethane
  • Coatings
  • Solid particle erosion
  • Nanoindentation


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