Drake’s ultra high-performance polymer stock shapes and machined and injection molded parts have decades of reliable severe-service application history that can help solve the design challenges of comparable components in alternative energy systems.
Chemical Resistance and Durability in Battery Energy Storage Systems
The proliferation of alternative energy systems has created the need to capture the excess generate power they generate and store it so it can later be distributed on demand. Large-scale battery storage installations have been growing in use to meet this need. These units and the materials and components that go into them must operate reliably in extremes of wet, arid, cold and hot environments around the world.
Drake Plastics’ Torlon PAI, PEEK, Ryton R-4 PPS and Ultem™ PEI offer the electrical and thermal insulation and isolation properties required for insulators, connectors and similar components for these power storage systems. All have exceptional chemical resistance. These ultra high-performance materials also feature high modulus and dimensional stability to serve applications that require rigidity under load at high temperatures. In addition, their impact strength lends durability to component housings, a particular benefit for installations in frigid environments.
Performance at Extreme Temperatures in Hydrogen Production and Storage
Cryogenic temperatures and high pressures are used to liquefy hydrogen for transportability and future use in numerous applications including spacecraft. These process conditions severely narrow the range of material candidates for sealing components that are essential to the integrity of storage vessels. Torlon PAI has a strong history of reliable performance in this arena. Its unique and exceptional ability to retain physical properties at cryogenic temperatures has led to the use of this ultra high-performance polymer in precision-machined seals and valve seats that function effectively in the rigorous conditions involved in hydrogen processing and storage.
In addition to Torlon PAI, PEEK has also performed successfully for years as a high-performance material for seals and critical components used in isolation, compression, storage, and distribution applications in the hydrogen supply chain. Key performance benefits behind the use of both materials include lighter weight and superior strength-to-weight ratio compared to metals, greater resistance to wear in hydrodynamic and frictional conditions, and their ability to retain properties over a wide span of temperature extremes.
Property Retention in Nuclear Power Systems Components
Of necessity, some equipment and components are isolated and exposed to radiation in certain areas of nuclear power plants. A key requisite for thermoplastics in these applications in nuclear power installations is their ability to withstand radiation exposure without degrading and losing a significant level of their physical properties. A key concern is the effect of high rad exposure on a material’s strength and ductility, to ensure components remain intact under stress and impact loads.
To determine viable candidate materials for nuclear power applications, The American Composites Manufacturing Learning Center conducted thorough testing on a variety of thermoplastics. The Center evaluated dozens of the polymers by exposing test specimens to radiation levels from 103 to 109 rads, then comparing their physical properties with the original values prior to testing. At test levels of 106 rads and greater, very few thermoplastics showed the required property retention. However, Torlon 5030 PAI, a 30% glass-reinforced polymer that Drake Plastics extrudes into stock shapes for machining, passed testing at 109rads, the highest level of exposure. Victrex PEEK, another polymer Drake converts into ultra high-performance stock shapes and parts, also passed at 109 rads. 30% glass-reinforced Ultem 2300 PEI which Drake supplies in its unique and efficient Seamless Tube® configurations, also demonstrated impressive property retention at 108 rads. Link to radiation study
The performance of these ultra high-performance polymers has led to their use for insulators, covers and other applications in nuclear energy installations including those that power US naval submarines.
Minimal Maintenance Polymers for Wind Turbine Components
Bushings, wear pads and other components that rotate and slide under high loads are similar to applications in other industries where Drake’s line-up of Torlon® PAI, Victrex™ and KetaSpire® PEEK and PAEK grades have gained recognition for long term performance. Some grades of these high-performance thermoplastics afford an added advantage in that they do not require external lubrication. Load-bearing rotor hubs and gear box components made from various grades of Torlon PAI and PEEK polymers run quieter than parts made of metal, and maintain high strength and dimensional stability over wide temperature ranges. Another advantage: their inherent resistance to corrosion even after long term exposure to hot, wet environments.
Gearboxes in these outdoor units are subjected to severe stresses from wind gusts and gales. Without constant monitoring and predictive maintenance, failures can be catastrophic. The systems used for oil lube equipment monitoring rely on Torlon PAI bobbins, oil containment tubes and other structural and insulative components that can withstand the operating environment and offer an unperturbed signal to the sophisticated electronics that monitor and characterize the metallic wear particles from bearings and gears.
Corrosion Resistance in Tidal Energy Generation and Geothermal Systems
These energy technologies also rely on turbines and rotating and sliding system components such as seals and bearing and wear parts that must perform long term. In these applications, Torlon PAI and PEEK bring significant advantages over metals, whose corrosion rate worsens with increases in naturally-occurring pH levels. This is a particular problem for metallic materials in hot water and steam, an environment where Drake Plastics’ high-performance materials have been performing reliably for many years. Specific formulations of these high-performance polymers require no external lubrication, a benefit in reducing the frequency and cost of maintenance.
Insulative Materials for Downstream Electrical Power Distribution Equipment
Power distribution equipment associated with renewable energy technologies is another application area for Torlon PAI, Ryton R-4 PPS, Ultem PEI and PEEK. These polymers afford strength and stability coupled with the thermal and electrical insulation and isolation properties these components require.
High-Performance Polymers in Fusion Energy Research & Development
Drake Plastics’ ultra high-performance polymers are playing a role in the growing number of research projects aimed at developing fusion as a viable energy source. As an example, Drake supplies 30% glass-reinforced Victrex PEEK in the form of bricks that are used in one project as insulators.
Drake Plastics’ Development Capabilities Accelerate Customers’ Innovations
Drake routinely provides expert technical resources to support customers’ efforts in developing new applications and material formulations, including projects in alternative energy systems. Clients capitalize on our expertise in polymer materials, formulations, extrusion technology and precision machining to speed the development cycle for new compounds and component designs. In our state-of-the-art extrusion operation, Drake converts standard and proprietary polymer formulations into stock shapes for machining. Our ample CNC milling capability and our machining expertise take new product projects forward with quick-turnaround on precision test samples and prototypes of new component designs. Drake’s physical testing lab serves as the final step in evaluating and validating new product performance.
These capabilities inject a high level of materials and processing expertise into our clients’ new technology projects, with the benefit of shortening development timeline and costs.
Alternative Energy Applications for Ultra High-Performance Polymers
- Battery & Power Storage Systems utilize Drake high performance polymers like Torlon PAI, Ryton R-4 PPS and PEEK for insulators, connectors, and durable housings.
- Hydrogen Production and Storage Processes count on Torlon PAI valve seats and seals to perform reliably at cryogenic temperatures and high pressures. PEEK is also used for seals and thermal isolation components for many applications in the hydrogen supply chain.
- Nuclear Power System insulators and covers in Torlon PAI and PEEK withstand exposure to radiation without significant property degradation.
- Fusion Energy Research Projects use Drake’s shapes made from PEEK for their insulating properties.
- Wind turbines rely on Torlon PAI for long service life in bobbins, oil containment tubes, bearing and wear parts and structural and insulative components.