Monitoring Multi-Site Damage Growth During Quasi-Static Testing of a Wind Turbine Blade using a Structural Neural System

R. Goutham Kirikera, Vishal Shinde, J. Mark Schulz, J. Mannur Sundaresan, Scott Hughes, Jeroen van Dam, Francis Nkrumah, Gangadhar Grandhi, Anindya Ghoshal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus Citations


Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) of a wind turbine blade using a Structural Neural System (SNS) is described in this paper. Wind turbine blades are composite structures with complex geometry and sections that are built of different materials. The 3D structure, large size, anisotropic material properties, and the potential for damage to occur anywhere on the blade makes damage detection a significant challenge. A SNS based on acoustic emission (AE) monitoring (passive listening) was developed for practical low cost SHM of large composite structures such as wind turbine blades. The SNS was tested to detect damage initiation and propagation on a 9 m long wind turbine blade during a quasi-static proof test to failure at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory test facility in Golden, Colorado. Twelve piezoelectric sensors were bonded on the surface of the wind turbine blade and connected to form four continuous sensors which were used in the SNS to determine damage locations. Although 12 sensors monitored the wind turbine blade, the SNS produces only two analog output signals; one time signal to determine and locate damage, and a second time signal containing combined AE waveforms. Testing of the wind turbine blade produced some interesting results. After initial emissions due to settling of the blade diminished, damage initiated at one location on the blade. As the load was increased, damage occurred in a sequence at three other locations until there was a catastrophic buckling failure of the blade. The buckling occurred above the design load for the blade, and was due to the carbon spar cap disbonding from the fiberglass shear web under compressive bending stress. The SNS indicated the general area where the damage started and how the damage progressed, which is valuable information for verifying and improving the blade design and the manufacturing procedure. Strain gages on the blade did not provide a clear indication of damage until buckling occurred. A major outcome of this testing was to provide confidence that SHM of large composite structures that have complex geometry and multiple materials is practical using a simple, low cost SNS.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)157-173
Number of pages17
JournalStructural Health Monitoring
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-500-43492


  • Acoustic emission (AE)
  • Continuous sensors
  • Passive health monitoring
  • Structural health monitoring (SHM)
  • Structural neural system (SNS)
  • Wind turbine blade


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