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In Focus: Bio-Based Lightweight Sandwich Structures for Rotor Blades

ESF junior research group “ecoWing” at Chemnitz University of Technology is working on a process chain for the automated processing of renewable lightweight materials.

The goal of the new research group “Automated, near-net-shape production of bio-based lightweight sandwich structures” (ecoWing) at Chemnitz University of Technology is to develop automated process chains for the production of lightweight components from bio-based, renewable raw materials. The entire process chain is to be developed to such an extent that a functional rotor blade for a small wind turbine can be produced.

A total of four professorships from three faculties at Chemnitz University of Technology are involved in the interdisciplinary project. The project is coordinated by the Chair of Textile Technologies, Prof. Dr. Holger Cebulla. The project is led by Marc Fleischmann, a research assistant at this professorship. In addition, the endowed professorship Textile Plastics and Hybrid Composites, held by Prof. Dr. Daisy Nestler, the professorship Coordination Chemistry, held by Prof. Dr. Michael Mehring, and the professorship Corporate Accounting and Controlling, held by Prof. Dr. Uwe Götze, are all involved.

Naturally renewable lightweight materials - competition for synthetic materials.

In a fully automated, reproducible manufacturing process, lightweight sandwich structures made of flax fibers, bio-based plastics, and veneer wood will be produced. The naturally renewable lightweight materials will thus be processed directly into component shapes in just a few steps. Significant amounts of waste can be avoided in this way.

“A comparable processing technology is currently only available for composite material with synthetic carbon and glass fibers and is used, for example, in aviation,” said Fleischmann. “There are currently no solutions for the automated processing of renewable natural fibers with naturally fluctuating shapes and fiber length. Natural fiber-reinforced plastics are therefore used in highly stressed components, mainly in premium niche products such as bio-based skis or snowboards. In some cases, mechanical properties are achieved in these components that are comparable to products made of competing synthetic materials. A particular challenge is the supply of natural fibers of the most consistent quality possible and at competitive prices.”

The optimization and evaluation of the ecoWing process chain and the new bio-based lightweight materials will take into account not only the mechanical material properties but also cost considerations and ecological aspects such as the CO2 footprint. “The ecoWing project is intended to make a significant contribution to the cost-effective and resource-saving use of renewable raw materials in lightweight engineering,” says Fleischmann.

The junior research group is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and with tax money from the Free State of Saxony based on the budget approved by members of the Saxon State Parliament.

Homepage of the junior research group ecoWing (German):

Further information can be obtained from Marc Fleischmann, Phone +49 (0)371 531-37957, Email:

(Article: Mario Steinebach / Translation: Chelsea Burris)

Matthias Fejes

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