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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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Ember temperature-control mug finally hits the market

Ben Welter - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ember Technologies, which raised more than $360,000 on IndieGoGo last year, has finally released its flagship product, the temperature-controlled Ember mug.

The $149 mug is being delivered to nearly 2,000 IndieGoGo backers and is available for purchase at dozens of Starbucks outlets in the United States. The mug quickly sold out at starbucks.com (it's back in stock today) and is on backorder on embertech.com, with delivery promised in January.

"The release of the Ember mug is seven years in the making. I started Ember to solve a simple yet universal challenge faced by coffee and tea drinkers everywhere — how can I keep my hot beverage at the ideal temperature for as long as I want," Ember Technologies founder and CEO Clay Alexander said in a news release.

Cutaway of Ember mugThe Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user.

Hot beverages are usually served around 160° Fahrenheit — far too hot to drink. Which means coffee drinkers must typically wait for their java to cool to drinkable temperature, commonly 135°. That's where Ember's phase change cooling technology makes a big difference. The PCM in Ember's lining absorbs the excess heat to rapidly cool the drink and then works in concert with a battery-powered heating element to keep the drink hot.

The Ember mug can maintain a temperature for about two hours on the go or indefinitely when on its slim charging coaster. A twist of the base adjusts the temperature. A mobile app allows users to set and select temperature profiles for coffee, tea or other beverages.

A few early reviews:

• "Beautiful packaging and works flawlessly. I also put in cold water and had it heat to 133. Very cool. Should have ordered an extra coaster." — Christopher Hall, IndieGoGo backer

• "Wish I had another charger and vehicle charger. Two hours is not very long, especially for a second cup of coffee once in town or for the drive back home after shopping day is done. Another wish is that the cup made notification sounds or at least flash 'ready,' Different colors in the display would be great too. Lovin' the temp stays hot!" — Heather Baker, IndieGoGo backer

• "Ember keeps my coffee and tea at the perfect temperature for hours on end. I don't scald my mouth anymore or have to put my drink in the microwave when it's too cold. It's perfect for traveling, everyday use, and going on cold walks when all you want is a warm drink. I highly recommend and a few of my friends already have one for the holidays." — Tayto, Los Angeles, Calif., on starbucks.com

• "Want it hotter or colder? Adjust the temp on the mug or in the app. Works amazing and holds temp for hours. Can't wait to see what else comes out of Ember!" — Eric, Carlsbad, Calif., on starbucks.com

PCM briefing: E-motorcycle girdles the globe; Spanish students test PCM on zero-g flight

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 29, 2016

• A Lehigh University student has been honored for his research on the use of phase change materials to improve the efficiency of power plants and reduce the pollutants they emit. Joshua Charles, who is pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering, received a scholarship from the Air Pollution and Educational Research Grant program. He is experimenting with several variations of hydrated salt to improve the performance of the air-cooled condensers used in some power plants.

Storm Wave e-motorcycle outside the White House• The Storm Wave, the electric motorcycle developed by a team at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, completed an around-the-world tour last month, covering 23,000 kilometers in 80 days. The Wave features swappable 28.5 kWh lithium-ion battery packs cooled by phase change material. Team members showed off the bike last week on "Zapplive," a Dutch television show.  

Greentech Media's Jason Deign lists Eco-Tech Ceram of France as one of 12 European energy storage startups to watch. ETC says its ceramic thermal storage medium is 92 percent efficient. The technology could be used to capture some of the 3,500 terawatt-hours of heat lost from industrial processes every year.

• New from QYResearch: "United States Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Market Report 2016."

• A team from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain recently got a taste of zero gravity aboard an A310 Airbus as part of the European Space Agency's "Fly Your Thesis" program. The team developed an experiment to analyze the melting process of phase change materials in weightlessness conditions.

Research roundup: Polyethylene glycol/hydroxyapatite composite; root zone heating; lime plasters; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A polyethylene glycol/hydroxyapatite composite phase change material for thermal energy storage [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Phase diagrams, eutectic mass ratios and thermal energy storage properties of multiple fatty acid eutectics as novel solid-liquid phase change materials for storage and retrieval of thermal energy [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Analysis of the technical, environmental and economic potential of phase change materials (PCM) for root zone heating in Mediterranean greenhouses [Renewable Energy]

Effect of inclination angle on the melting process of phase change material [Case Studies in Thermal Engineering]

Densities of Selected Phase Change Materials in Liquid State [Chemical Data Collections]

Hygrothermal performance improvement of the Korean wood frame walls using macro-packed phase change materials [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Reinforcing and shape stabilizing of phase-change material via graphene oxide aerogel [Carbon]

PCM-enhanced Lime Plasters for Vernacular and Contemporary Architecture [Energy Procedia]

Characterisation and Enhancement of Phase Change Slurries [Energy Procedia]

Packed-bed Thermal Energy Storage Analysis: Quartzite and Palm-Oil Performance [Energy Procedia]

Thermal properties and reliability of eutectic mixture of stearic acid-acetamide as phase change material for latent heat storage [Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics]

Application of material assessment methodology in latent heat thermal energy storage for waste heat recovery [Applied Energy]

Energy density, thermal conductivity, price seen as areas for PCM focus

Ben Welter - Monday, November 28, 2016

In a report prepared for the United Kingdom's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, researchers have identified several areas with high potential for development of PCM applications, including water heaters and building materials, and predict that further materials research and increased demand will drive down costs.

The report, titled "Evidence Gathering: Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Technologies," says these areas of technological and commercial development are worth focusing on:

• Integration of PCM into small and larger hot water tanks for improved performance.
• Development of PCMs that can provide storage for applications where water cannot be used as a storage medium.
• Increasing the energy density and thermal conductivity of PCMs to make charging and discharging more efficient.
• Better integration of heat exchangers into thermal stores.
• Improved performance of PCM-enhanced building materials.
• Expanded use of PCMs for air-conditioning, passive cooling and "coolth" storage.
• Ice store technology, such as the one developed by Viessmann.

Among the factors seen as key barriers to wider adoption of thermal energy storage technologies: Uncertainty around carbon savings. The report notes:

"Interest in TES is high because of the role it could play in transitions to a low- and zero-carbon energy system. TES may have an important role as an enabler of low-carbon technologies, particularly renewable heat, electricity and CHP. However, at present, the existence of thermal storage capacity can increase carbon emissions. This is because all storage systems have losses, and these losses are effectively wasted fuel or wasted electricity (both still predominantly fossil-derived).

"Understanding the carbon impacts of TES is therefore not at all simple. At a whole-system level it would require complex system-modelling to justify any statements about a unit of TES (a kWh or kW) equating to a quantity of saved carbon. The carbon content of the TES itself is in all cases relatively low, as the storage material (whether water, rock or advanced PCMs or thermochemical materials) does not require excessive energy to produce and the containers do not use rare materials or energy intensive production methods."

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545249/DELTA_EE_DECC_TES_Final__1_.pdf 

PCM briefing: University of Nebraska installing 2nd TES system; Credo-packing cyclists reach India

Ben Welter - Monday, November 21, 2016

• The University of Nebraska has begun construction on its second thermal energy storage facility in Lincoln. The system will chill water at night and on weekends, when electricity costs are low. The water will be used to cool buildings during the day.

Italian couple cycling across India• Do you remember the Italian couple who began an 18,000-kilometer bike ride in June to raise awareness about diabetes? Chiara Ricciardi and Riccardo Rocchi reached India last week. Ricciardi has type 1 diabetes and requires a daily dose of insulin. She is using Pelican BioThermal's Credo ProMed pack to keep insulin at the right temperature. The pair have pedaled 7,130 kilometers so far, across 13 countries, averaging 49 km per day. Their final destination: Singapore.

• The Naval Post Graduate School’s Integrated Multi-Physics Renewable Energy Laboratory in Monterey, Calif., has integrated the CALMAC's ice-based energy storage technology into an on-site microgrid. The lab is testing and evaluating the integration of a variety of energy storage technologies with solar and wind power.

Boca International Ltd. has signed a $3.4 million contract with Differ Commercial Management Ltd. to supply and install BocaPCM-TES systems in Differ properties in Xiamen City, China. Boca says its salt-based aqueous system is similar to ice- and water-based TES systems but covers a wider range of temperatures, allowing for "even and controllable energy usage, drawing energy from the storage directly during peak hour, which ultimately reduces the operating costs."

Sunamp Ltd. has completed installation of its SunampPV heat batteries in more than a thousand homes at Castle Rock Edinvar, one of Scotland's largest housing associations. The company says the hybrid system will save households up to $370 a year each on their hot water and heating bills.

Research roundup: Heat storage system in diesel engine; integrating PCM in furniture; hybrid cooling vest; more

Ben Welter - Friday, November 18, 2016

Experimental study on heat storage system using phase-change material in a diesel engine [Energy]

Recycling Rhizopus oryzae resting cells as biocatalyst to prepare near eutectic palmitic-stearic acid mixtures from non-edible fat [Journal of Molecular Catalysis B: Enzymatic]

Dynamic thermal characteristics analysis of microencapsulated phase change suspensions flowing through rectangular mini-channels for thermal energy storage [Energy and Buildings]

Influence of internal thermal mass on the indoor thermal dynamics and integration of phase change materials in furniture for building energy storage: A review [Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews]

Experimental study of the thermal characteristics of microencapsulated phase change composite cylinders [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Experimental Investigation of Melting Behavior of PCM by Using Coil Heat Source inside Cylindrical Container  [Journal of Electrical Systems and Information Technology]

Simulation Study of Anomalous Thermal Properties of Molten Nitrate salt [Powder Technology]

Enhance heat transfer for phase-change materials in triplex tube heat exchanger with selected arrangements of fins [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Experiments on Thermal Performance of Erythritol/Expanded Graphite in a Direct Contact Thermal Energy Storage Container [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Hybrid cooling vest for cooling between exercise bouts in the heat: effects and practical considerations [Journal of Thermal Biology]

Patent application: Mattress with a visco elastic polyurethane foam layer

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 17, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160331150 (HSM, Hickory, N.C.):

"A foam mattress is provided having a body facing surface comprising a viscoelastic foam layer. The body facing surface further comprises a recess or cavity into which a layer including a core of springs may be provided. The foam mattress further having a layer of open cell foam beneath the viscoelastic foam layer. The open cell, or reticulated, foam layer provides increased breathability. Support for the mattress may further be provided by a bottom layer of conventional foam. ... The viscoelastic foam may be gel infused and/or contain other elements including phase change materials, antimicrobials, or the like."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160331150.pdf

Patent application: Integrated thermal energy module with air-cooled evaporator design

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 17, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160334154 (applicant Thermo King Corp., Bloomington, Minn.):

"A transport refrigeration unit comprising: a compressor configured to compress a heat transfer fluid; a condenser disposed downstream of the compressor, the condenser configured to condense the heat transfer fluid from a gaseous state to a liquid state; an expansion de ice disposed downstream of the condenser, the expansion device configured to release pressure of the heat transfer fluid; a first flow control device disposed downstream of the condenser, the first flow-control device configured to direct the heat transfer fluid downstream of the expansion device; a first evaporator disposed downstream of the expansion device and the first flow control device; a second evaporator disposed downstream of the expansion device and the first flow control device, wherein the second evaporator includes a thermal accumulator ... defined as one or more apparatuses that include phase change material (PCM). Further, the “thermal accumulator” allows the PCM to exchange heat with the environment near the thermal accumulator. In one embodiment, the PCM can be eutectic fluid, e.g., propylene glycol (C3H8O2)."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160334154.pdf

Patent application: Thermal receptacle with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thermal receptacle patent drawingU.S. patent application 20160332799 (applicants Raymond Booska, Melbourne, Fla., and J. Bruce Kolowich, Saline, Mich.):

"A liquid receptacle for rapidly lowering the temperature of a liquid contained therein to a warm range suitable for human contact and maintaining the liquid in the warm range for an extended period of time, the receptacle having a drinking lip at the uppermost end, the receptacle comprising: an inner vessel having an open upper end and closed lower end and a wall connecting the upper end and the lower end; the inner vessel having an inner surface with plurality of indentations or protrusions defined thereon and an outer surface with a plurality of corresponding protrusions or indentations defined thereon such that the effective surface area of the inner and outer surfaces is increased and heat transfer through the wall of the inner vessel is increased; an insulated outer shell spaced from the inner vessel defining an interstitial chamber therebetween, the insulated outer shell having an open upper end and a closed lower end; and a phase change material disposed within said chamber for regeneratively absorbing thermal energy from the liquid and then releasing the thermal energy to the liquid to maintain the temperature of the liquid."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160332799.pdf

PCM briefing: va-Q-tec raises stake in polymer nanofoam company; Axiom installs system in Walmart store

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 15, 2016

• PCM maker va-Q-tec AG is increasing its equity stake in SUMTEQ GmbH, a technology company that develops lightweight, durable polymer nanofoams for use as insulating material. 

• In tests conducted by San Diego Gas and Electric and ASWB Engineering, Viking Cold Solutions' PCM-based thermal energy storage system showed reductions in electricity consumption of 30 percent and 39 percent in two cold storage facilities in the San Diego area. Based on the results, SDG&E and ASWB recommended that California utilities include the technology in their Energy Efficiency and Demand Response incentive programs.

• The International Fabrics Association International has issued a call for presenters for its next trade show and expo. Possible topics include flame retardancy, moisture management, polymer innovations and thermal control. Submissions are due Feb. 9. The expo will be held Sept. 26-29, 2017, in New Orleans.

Greentech Media's Jason Deign takes a look at what energy insiders around the world are making of Donald Trump's victory.

Axiom Exergy is installing its "Refrigeration Battery" energy storage system at a San Diego Walmart store. Two of California's largest utilities are funding the demonstration project. The system stores water chilled at night, when electricity is cheapest, to take the load off condensers and compressors during the day.

• New from QYResearch: "Global Phase Change Materials Market Research Report 2016."

SpecialChem is offering a 90-minute webinar on the impact of a new U.S. law on intellectual property. "U.S. Trade Secrets and How they are Protected: Easy to Understand Guide" will be held at 10 a.m. EST on Dec. 14. The cost is $268 for three participants on a single connection.