Edinburgh University’s School of Engineering partnered with Babock International on a £2.4 million engineering research facility in 2019, known as FASTBLADE.
The FASTBLADE facility is testing composite materials that can be deployed in a range of full-scale structures including tidal blades, plane components and bridge sections.
Significantly it is the first facility in the world designed to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades, promising to boost Scotland’s international position at the forefront of tidal energy. The facility utilises a series of specially designed Digital Displacement pump motors to run test cycles significantly faster and using less energy compared with existing technologies. The unique capabilities of Digital Displacement mean the system will recover energy between load cycles, significantly reducing the cost of testing.
By replicating the complex forces that occur in real environments at an accelerated pace, the facility is enabling product developers to intelligently design structures with less risk of the unknown. This promises significant benefits, particularly in testing tidal blades which are made up of composite materials that need to be capable of withstanding high fatigue loads in harsh ocean conditions for up to 20 years.
Built at Rosyth in Fife, FASTBLADE benefits from £1.4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and £1m from the University of Edinburgh. Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School of Engineering, said of the facility: “This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies, and will be a great benefit to the tidal energy sector.”