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The award-winning Phase Change Matters blog tracks the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. E-mail tips and comments to Ben Welter, communications director at Entropy Solutions. Follow the blog on Twitter at @PureTemp. Subscribe to the weekly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.

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ACT is awarded a U.S. patent for PCM with tunable melt point

Ben Welter - Friday, January 10, 2020

Advanced Cooling Technologies of Lancaster, Pa., has been awarded a U.S. patent for a phase change material with a tunable melting point.

The hydration level of the PCM, a salt hydrate consisting primarily of salt and water, is altered to change the melting point to a desired set point using changes in humidity of the system.

“In an ARPA-E ARID funded program, we showed that you could change the melting point of salt hydrate phase change materials by changing the hydration levels of the salt hydrate in-situ,” Richard Bonner, ACT’s vice president for R&D, wrote in a LinkedIn post. “We also applied this technology to power plant cooling, where the seasonal variations in ambient temperature necessitate different melting points. Congratulations to the inventors: Dr. Ying Zheng, Dr. Chien-hua Chen, Dr. Howard Pearlman, and Dr. Fangyu Cao."

ACT worked with Lehigh University and the University of Missouri to develop the PCM. The idea was prompted by ACT’s interest in utilizing seasonal shifts in weather for the company’s day/night thermal storage application. A tunable melt point allows the PCM to be more easily solidified in cold and hot seasons.

The targeted melt temperatures in the project were from 25° C to 45° C for low-grade thermal energy storage, but could be extended to higher temperatures with other salt hydrates, the company said.

The project was funded, in part, with a $3.2 million ARPA-E ARID grant, awarded in 2015. ARID stands for "Advanced Research in dry Cooling." The project teams were challenged to "develop innovative, high-performance air-cooled heat exchangers and supplemental cooling systems and/or cool-storage systems" for use in thermoelectric power plants, to replace existing technologies that use a substantial amount of water to cool plant condensers.

The ARID project was completed in 2018. ACT's invention is now at the lab-scale testing phase. The most difficult hurdle, the company said, will be to scale up to commercialization level.  “From a manufacturing standpoint, shifting of the hydration level would require a large infrastructure for altering the humidity,” the company said.

“The concept could also be applied to the HVAC industry (building comfort) to provide day/night load shifting,” the company said, “as well as PCM synthesis and preparation for a consistent product. “
 

Sunamp's UniQ heat storage product earns RAL certification

Ben Welter - Monday, December 16, 2019

The RAL Quality Association PCM has awarded the RAL Quality Mark to Sunamp Ltd. for its UniQ line of thermal batteries.

RAL quality markThe product, which has been installed in thousands of homes across Europe, uses a specially formulated phase change material to store large amounts of energy from renewable and other sources and release it as heat to deliver hot water and space heating as needed. The PCM is sodium acetate trihydrate-based with a patented formulation giving a melt point of 58 degrees Celsius. 

In independent testing conducted by ZAE Bayern, the PCM was successfully melted and solidified in a UniQ heat battery for 10,000 cycles. At the end of the test, no significant differences in stored thermal energy capacity were found between the cycled samples and an uncycled sample of the PCM. The product, which also passed leak testing, earned the association's highest level of certification, Grade A. 

Over 3,000 UniQ units are now in service, with Sunamp projecting a tenfold growth in sales next year. The quality mark will be featured on Sunamp’s website and in other marketing materials, UniQ manuals and product labels.

“We are delighted that our thermally charged UniQ product range of heat batteries has been awarded a globally recognized mark of quality,” said Kate Fisher, Ph.D., a materials integration scientist at Sunamp, which is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. “RAL certification is a huge accolade and cements Sunamp’s position as world leaders at the forefront of the technology.”

Sunamp UniQ heat batteriesThe RAL Quality Association PCM was established in 2004 to develop standards for the PCM industry. Members include Axiotherm, Microtek Laboratories, Rubitherm, Croda Europe, va-Q-tec, PCM Technology, Global-Systems Europe, Sasol, Sunamp, Pluss Advanced Technologies and PureTemp LLC.

Members and non-members alike can submit their products to the association for independent testing and earn the RAL Quality Mark. To qualify for the mark, products and materials must meet standards for energy storage capacity and phase transition temperature and stability, as defined in RAL-GZ 896.

“I am delighted that more and more products with PCM technology can be awarded the RAL Quality Mark as meaningful and transparent proof of quality and longevity,” said Stefan Thomann, the association’s managing director. “The great thing about Sunamp´s UniQ heat batteries is that they can be installed and used in homes very easily and save a lot of energy costs and carbon emissions immediately. The fact that they passed more than 10,000 cycles make sure that users will be able to profit from these benefits for decades.”

RAL members are invited to spread the word on PCM quality standards

Ben Welter - Friday, October 25, 2019

One of the challenges faced by PCM manufacturers is a negative perception of the material fed by occasional reports of PCM systems that do not perform as well as expected. To address that concern, the RAL Quality Association PCM is recommending that member companies inform potential customers about the performance standards established by RAL. Potential customers may not be aware that such standards exist.

While RAL certification of PCM products and systems is available, the objective of the RAL recommendation is not to suggest to customers that RAL certification is required, but rather to increase awareness that standards exist to distinguish between good and bad quality products.

An excerpt from the association's letter to members:

"The Quality Association PCM (Gütegemeinschaft PCM e.V.) was founded to develop meaningful and transparent quality specifications for phase change materials, monitor compliance with these specifications and award the RAL Quality Mark Phase Change Materials to those products that do comply. The overall objective is to build up customer confidence in phase change materials and to make sure that the products live up to the customers´ expectations with regards to performance and longevity. ...

"In order to achieve full customer satisfaction and raise confidence in our technology, we recommend pointing to the criteria laid down in Quality Assurance RAL-GZ 896 whenever you participate in a tender or talk to potential clients. It is the customers´ decision if they want to apply these criteria, but they should be aware of them at least. The latest version of RAL-GZ 896 is available to the public on our website (https://www.pcm-ral.org/pcm/en/quality-testing-specifications-pcm/)."

The RAL Quality Association PCM was established in 2004 to develop standards for the PCM industry. Members include Axiotherm, Microtek Laboratories, Rubitherm, Croda Europe, va-Q-tec, PCM Technology, Global-Systems Europe, Sasol, Sunamp, Pluss Advanced Technologies and PureTemp LLC. The association will hold its next meeting Nov. 5 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

TOPIC

Patent application: Latent-heat storage body microcapsules

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190300770 (applicant National University Corp., Hokkaido University, Hokkaido, Japan):

Hokkaido microcapsule patent drawing"In the present invention, after a primary coating film is formed by boehmite treatment of the surface of a core particle in a solution comprising Al ions, a secondary coating film is formed by cooling the solution to the supersaturation temperature of the Al ions to cause deposition of a hydroxide of aluminum on the surface of the primary coating film, and an Al oxide film is formed on the surface of the core particle by heat treating the secondary coating film in an oxidizing atmosphere. Consequently, the shell is thickened by the amount of secondary coating film formed, so that the cyclic strength of the capsule can be secured and the composition change of the PCM in the production process is remarkably suppressed."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190300770.pdf

Research roundup: Passive cooling in buildings; honeycomb carbon fibers; leak-free aggregates; more

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

From Applied Energy:

Passive cooling through phase change materials in buildings. A critical study of implementation alternatives

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Honeycomb carbon fibers strengthened composite phase change materials for superior thermal energy storage

From e-Polymers:

Fabrication and characterization of conductive microcapsule containing phase change material

From Construction and Building Materials:

Preparation and characterization of nano-SiO2/paraffin/PE wax composite shell microcapsules containing TDI for self-healing of cementitious materials
Development of leak-free phase change material aggregates
Behavior of cementitious mortars with direct incorporation of non-encapsulated phase change material after severe temperature exposure

From Advanced Functional Materials:

Engineering the Thermal Conductivity of Functional Phase‐Change Materials for Heat Energy Conversion, Storage, and Utilization

From Journal of Energy Storage:

A numerical investigation of the effects of metal foam characteristics and heating/cooling conditions on the phase change kinetic of phase change materials embedded in metal foam
Applications of combined/hybrid use of heat pipe and phase change materials in energy storage and cooling systems: A recent review
Innovative composite sorbent for thermal energy storage based on a SrBr2·6H2O filled silicone composite foam

From ACS Applied Nano Materials:

Concentrated Ag Nanoparticles in Dodecane as Phase Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage

From Materials Research Express:

Preparation of 1-dodecanol microcapsules with cellulose nanofibers-modified melamine-formaldehyde resin as a potential phase change material

From IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science:

Optimisation of Parameters in Thermal Energy Storage System by Enhancing Heat Transfer in Phase Change Material

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Thermal transport properties at interface of fatty acid esters enhanced with carbon-based nanoadditives

From Journal of Solar Energy Engineering:

Using a Novel Phase Change Material-Based Cooling Tower for a Photovoltaic Module Cooling

From Solar Energy:

Experimental investigation on micro-scale phase change material based on sodium acetate trihydrate for thermal storage

From RSC Advances:

A novel forced separation method for the preparation of paraffin with excellent phase changes

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Experimental characterisation of a novel thermal energy storage based on open-cell copper foams immersed in organic phase change material

PCM briefing: Acumen invests in Promethean Power Systems; Viking Cold wins Cleanie award

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

• Social venture capital investor Acumen has invested an undisclosed amount in Promethean Power Systems Inc., which makes PCM-based refrigeration systems for cold-storage and milk chilling applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. Jiten Ghelani, chief executive of Promethean, which is based in Boston, Mass., and Pune, India, said the investment would help the company accelerate the adoption of its products across India and other markets, and also expand its cooling-as-a-service offerings. 

Air New Zealand pillow• Two new consumer products featuring temperature-control fabrics from Outlast Technologies hit the market recently: A pillow designed to improve the quality of sleep for passengers on Air New Zealand's long-haul flights and a Calloway pullover designed to keep golfers cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, Texas, won a Platinum Cleanie Award last month for a PCM-based storage and demand management project in Massachusetts. The Cleanie Awards, presented at this year's North America Smart Energy Week in Salt Lake City, Utah, recognize companies and individuals shaping the clean-tech and renewable energy industries. The Viking Cold project involved the installation and commissioning of TES systems to store refrigeration energy and facilitate 1.3 MW of energy demand reduction across eight customer facilities, including the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Sonoco ThermoSafe of Arlington Heights, Ill., has introduced a new temperature-controlled box rental service. "The new Orion r product line is based on the existing ChillTech product," said Ben VanderPlas, manager of engineering and product management at Sonoco. "We’ve made changes to make the product more reusable (added EPP) and have increased the VIP insulation. The PCMs remain the same, using paraffin-based materials. ChillTech was developed by Laminar Medica in the UK prior to their acquisition and integration into the ThermoSafe business. Solutions will exist for 2-8, 15-25 and frozen temperatures."

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted an opening for a Senior Account Manager Europe, to be based in Netherlands.

Microtek Laboratories Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, has introduced a new line of PCM-equipped pouches and panels for use in temperature-controlled shipping.

Patent application: Controlled release dual-walled microcapsules

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190282989 (applicant Encapsys LLC, Appleton, Wis.):

"A method of forming dual melamine/acrylic walled microcapsules having improved physical properties and release control as well as the microcapsules formed by the process wherein the capsule wall is formed by the use of select (meth)acrylate monomers and/or oligomers and/or select self-condensing melamine resins."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190282989.pdf

Patent application: Noninvasive thermal stimuli for treatment of migraine

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

Migraine treatment patent drawingU.S. patent application 20190275287 (applicant University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Penn.):

"Methods, systems and devices for treating headaches, including migraines. In some variations these methods may include enhancing sleep, including enhancing the quality of sleep, reducing sleep onset time, increasing total sleep time, treating insomnia, and/or treating other neurological disorders by non-invasive temperature regulation of the frontal cortex prior to and/or during sleep. ... Treatment may be accomplished by sustained thermal regulation (warming or cooling) in an appropriate therapeutic range and time using one or more phase change materials."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190275287.pdf

Patent application: Method and apparatus for transporting temperature sensitive products

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190285328 (applicant Illuminate Consulting LLC, Tampa, Florida):

"Embodiments of the subject invention relate to a method and apparatus for thermally protecting a product, such as when storing and/or shipping a product, so as to control the temperatures the products are exposed to. Embodiments can [increase] the amount of time the product and/or portions of the product experience a desired temperature range and/or reduce the amount of time the product and/or portions of the product experience temperatures outside of the desired temperature range and/or experience an undesirable temperature range. Embodiments can incorporate thermally conductive materials, such as aluminum sheets, positioned around and/or near the product positioned inside a packaging container, such that the conductive materials conduct heat from one or more locations in the interior of the package to one or more other locations in the interior of the package."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190285328.pdf

Patent application: Battery-cooling heat sink provided with PCM capsule

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190288351 (applicant LG Chem Ltd., Seoul, South Korea):

"A battery module including a battery-cooling heat sink having a PCM capsule. The battery-cooling heat sink provides a uniform temperature of a cooling fluid flowing through the battery module using a PCM capsule, minimizes a temperature variation of the cooling fluid over the entire area of the heat sink formed in the battery module, and prevents the temperature at a cooling fluid outlet of the heat sink from being higher than that of a cooling fluid inlet."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190288351.pdf