Subcomponent Validation of Composite Joints for Marine Energy Structures

Research output: NRELPresentation


The Marine Energy Advanced Materials project addresses the barriers and uncertainties facing marine renewable energy developers in using composite materials for load-bearing structures. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office, the multiyear project comprises of collaborators from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Montana State University (MSU), Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and industry stakeholders. As part of the Marine Energy Advanced Materials project, marine renewable energy industry surveys and assessments were conducted to identify key materials and knowledge gaps that hinder the adoption of composite materials in marine renewable energy structures. Specific knowledge gaps highlighted for composite materials were environmental effects, fatigue strengths, and bonded and bolted interconnects (composite/composite and composite/metal). It was concluded that many of these gaps could be addressed through subcomponent validation; consequently, a program was developed at NREL with the goals of developing subcomponent validation methods for appropriate marine energy materials, which would improve the understanding of design allowables for full-scale structural components and joints. Ultimately, the aim is to reduce timelines and costs associated with full-scale structural validation efforts while also providing near-net-scale static and fatigue data of composite/metal subcomponents for marine renewable energy systems. To approach these goals, a testing program was developed at NREL to investigate a variety of materials and structural design details at the subcomponent scale to understand (a) the effects of harsh and corrosive marine energy environments and (b) the static and fatigue strengths of the complex geometries. The recent study from this testing program is perhaps the largest that has ever been conducted with respect to specimen scale and geographic diversity of underwater environmental conditions that the specimens were subjected to. A variety of specimen geometries were designed by NREL to highlight key features of multimaterial (composite/composite or metal/composite) interconnects that may be used in marine renewable energy structural designs. The designs used several different composite matrices, adhesives, and marine-grade steels, which were highlighted in the surveys as being the most appropriate for harsh marine environments. Composite panels were then manufactured at MSU, and were subsequently manufactured into test specimens by NREL. The specimens were shipped to FAU and PNNL for conditioning in ocean water tanks at various temperatures for an extended period. The specimens were then returned to NREL for structural validation. This presentation will provide an overview of recent advances within the testing program in terms of specimen design and test methods, and will discuss results and key findings of the subcomponent testing program to date at NREL.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the University Marine Energy Research Community (UMERC) and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS), 13-14 September 2022, Portland, Oregon

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5700-83752


  • adhesives
  • bolted connections
  • composite materials
  • environmental degradation
  • marine energy
  • materials
  • structural validation


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