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Developing new materials and structures for sustainable energy generation

Published: 24 July 2012Origin: Engineering

Engineering has appointed an internationally-known specialist in structures and materials to strengthen its team developing and testing the next generation of composites. These are widely used in sustainable energy generation and the aviation and maritime industries.


In particular, Professor Ole Thybo Thomsen over the last years has been working to improve the performance of offshore wind energy turbines. "These machines have to survive harsh conditions, and must be made from strong and flexible yet lightweight materials," he explains. "We need to know when materials are likely to fail, so computer modelling and experimental testing are part of our work. Results of our research can also be applied in other areas such as aerospace, marine and automotive applications."

Globally, plans are already in hand for massive wind farms with ambitious political goals in place to cover a significant amount of the future worldwide demand for electricity through wind power. The UK is in forefront of this development and plans are at an advanced stage to build vast offshore wind power plants. The London Array is now under construction in the Thames estuary; its 175 turbines could generate enough electricity to power 750,000 homes, about a quarter of greater London, and will reduce annual CO2 emissions by about 1.4 mill tonnes.

Ole chose to join Engineering at Southampton from Aalborg University in Denmark for a variety of reasons, including its research strength in a multitude of engineering and science disciplines including materials and structures engineering which are closest to his own field of expertise. "The basic building blocks and competences to do something really great across engineering disciplines to address the grand challenges of our times are clearly present as in few other places in the world, and I simply think that the opportunity was too good to be missed", he adds.

He will continue to work as a part-time professor at Aalborg. Ole is also Chairman of the Danish Council for Independent Research | Technology and Production Sciences (Danish equivalent to the EPSRC), a fellow of the Danish Academy of the Technical Sciences (Danish equivalent to the Royal Academy of Engineering) and is currently Associate Editor for Strain - an International Journal for Experimental Mechanics.

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