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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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PCM-equipped personal air conditioner set for commercial release in 2019

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Developers of a personal air conditioner designed to reduce energy use in office buildings say they’re on track for commercial release next year. The “μX” micro climate system features a phase change material that solidifies at about 18 degrees C to store cooling generated at night for use during the day.

mX early version
The evolution of the μX: an early design ...
Dr. H. Ezzat Khalifa of Syracuse University led the development team, which includes Air Innovations, Cornell University, United Technologies Research Center and Bush Technical LLC. The team has been working on the system since 2015, funded in large part by a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provided $400,000 in follow-on funding in 2016.

Sam Brown, OEM custom director at Air Innovations, is in charge of bringing the product to market. He and Michael Wetzel, president and CEO at Air Innovations, talked about their company’s role in the project.

Q: Describe the μX system size, components and functionality.

Brown: “The current unit is about twice size of a standard PC computer tower. The unit utilizes a phase change material that melts over time. We then run a fan over the material to create an active cooling effect. A compressor then re-solidifies the PCM in the off-peak hours for future on-demand needs.”

Q: Describe the phase change material used in the system: type, melt point, thermal storage capacity, amount used in each unit.

Brown:Rubitherm, 68F, 8-10 hours, 40 pounds.”

mX early version
... a version displayed at a recent conference ...
Q: Were different PCMs tested, or did the team focus on one from the start?

Wetzel: “Many PCMs were considered and analyzed before settling on Rubitherm, but no others were tested in operating systems.”

Q: Preliminary tests indicate the prototype can remove more than 32W of heat, surpassing the ARPA-E grant target of 23W. Is the final production model likely to hit that higher number?

Wetzel: “23 watts is the target heat removal directly from a person. Our manikin results showed us exceeding that number in all tests. We tested three different diffuser methods. Some achieved as high as 32 watts removed from the manikin. In all cases we are actually generating more than 500 watt-hours of cooling, enough to cool the airstream 8 degrees F for 10 hours.”

Q: The system is now known as "μX." Will that name be used for the commercial product?

Brown: “No, the commercialized name will more closely reflect the manner in which it's utilized.”

Q: What was the greatest technical hurdle the team faced in developing this product?

Wetzel: “There were many challenges on this project. Part of the program required the development of the world’s smallest scroll compressor. This also means that there was no performance data or design simulation data with which to develop the rest of the system. Our partners on the project had to develop simulation tools based on testing each new component. At Air Innovations our main challenges are designing for manufacturability and the integration and testing of off-the-shelf components as alternatives, as some of the elements of the ARPA-E units are not yet commercially available.”

mX early version
... and, finally, says Brown, "where we think the unit will potentially go in final production."
Q: What is happening with the project right now? Is it at the pilot stage?

Brown: “Currently, we are working through ARPA-E and New York State Energy grants to fully develop the technology. We are developing the unit for two scenarios. The primary is for 8-10 hours of cooling in any office environment. The other is for four hours to off-load the grid in metropolitan areas with peak power capacity concerns. Several units have been built and tested in controlled environments. We are currently seeking grant opportunities to support larger field trials.”

Q: Can you offer any details on the timeline, projected price, target market and sales projections?

Brown: “Further human testing will be necessary in order to right-size the final product. The unit will likely be ready for market sometime in 2019. The initial price point of the unit will be higher, and then come down based on quantity and market demand, settling around $2,500. It is our goal to bring to market 250-500 units in the first year.

“The exciting opportunity with the μX technology is that it further expands upon our existing Micro Environments product line. The commercialized unit will be able to control the users’ complete environment while not only offering active cooling and heating, but to control their entire surroundings as seen in our other models. Furthermore, our customers will see an ROI with the μX technology by allowing set points in the summer to run higher and temps to run cooler in the winter, reducing building HVAC power needs with a more personal temperature control directly at the desk. We believe this technology can improve worker productivity by allowing individual control, at all times, of their specific environment.”

PCM briefing: Neck collar uses Outlast to keep wearer cool; thermally responsive bandage heals wounds quickly

Ben Welter - Monday, June 25, 2018

A new neck collar designed for people living with motor neurone disease features Outlast phase change technology to keep the wearer cool. The Heads Up collar supports the collection of small muscles in the neck that are vulnerable to the wasting effects of the disease.

• A Northwestern University team has developed a thermally responsive bandage that quickly heals painful, hard-to-treat sores in people with diabetes. The bandage features a hydrogel that rapidly solidifies when exposed to body temperature, conforming to the shape of the wound.

• In the short term, analysts say crude palm oil prices have likely hit rock bottom. But a Rabobank analyst is projecting reduced production - and higher prices - from 2022 to 2025. 

•  A call for papers has been issued for the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference Europe, to be held in Strasbourg, France, Jan. 27-31, 2019. "Thermal modeling" and "preventing thermal runaway" are among the topics. The deadline for priority consideration is June 29.

Emily Liu, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office to receive a $1.8 million award to study high-temperature molten-salt properties and corrosion mechanisms.

Dr. Robert Brookins, interim CEO at Alexium International Group Ltd., will present an hourlong webinar, "Phase Change Materials: How Can They Help Set Your Company Apart," on June 28. The free event is sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Association International.  

• Swedish solar company Azelio has launched a demonstrator of its solar energy storage technology. The system uses an aluminum alloy as a thermal storage material. 

In a new directive, the European Commission is calling for at least 32 percent of total EU energy use to come from renewable sources by 2030. The directive, which will require the formal approval of the European Parliament, sets specific annual targets for cooling and heating installations. 

• The agenda is taking shape for the 13th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 1-2 in Bern, Switzerland. Topics include "Energy buffering with phase change materials" and "Thermal performance of phase change materials for the building skin."

Va-Q-tec AG is expanding its Kölleda location in Thuringia, Germany. The company manufactures vacuum isolation panels, phase change materials and passive thermal packaging systems at two plants there.

• MIT Technology Review reports that Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent company) appears to be in talks to spin out Project Malta, a molten-salt energy storage project, in a transaction involving Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ $1 billion investment fund.

Patent application: Protective headgear comprising temperature control apparatus

Ben Welter - Monday, June 25, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180160761 (applicant Aspire Zone Foundation, Doha, Qatar):

Protective headgear patent drawing"A protective headgear, such as a hard hat, is provided that comprises a protective outer shell, which surrounds the head of a wearer and in so doing defines a space between the head of the wearer and the underside of the outer shell; a heat-absorbing member; and a forced air ventilation apparatus. In use, the heat-absorbing member is positioned within the outer shell in the space formed between the head of the wearer and the outer shell, so that the forced air ventilation apparatus can provide a flow of ambient air from outside of the outer shell over the heat-absorbing pad within the space between the head of the wearer and the underside of the outer shell, thereby creating a cooling circulation of air around the head and face of the wearer. Suitably, the heat-absorbing pad comprises a phase-change material (PCM)."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180160761.pdf

Patent application: Heat exchanging thermal liquid container

Ben Welter - Monday, June 25, 2018

Drinkware patent drawingU.S. patent application 20180171197 (assignee Curators of the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.):

"A heat exchanging thermal liquid container system that comprises a main body at least partially defining a liquid reservoir structured and operable to retain a liquid, and a phase change material (PCM) liner comprising a PCM liner PCM having a selected melting temperature, and/or at least one PCM pod. Each of the at least one PCM pod(s) comprising a respective PCM pod PCM having a respective selected melting temperature. Wherein the PCM liner and/or the at least one PCM pod are disposable within the liquid reservoir such that when a liquid is disposed within the liquid reservoir the liquid will contact at least one of the PCM liner and the at least one PCM pod such that thermal energy can be exchanged between the liquid and the respective at least one of the PCM liner PCM and the at least one PCM pod PCM."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180171197.pdf

Related: Drinkware and plateware and active temperature control module for same (Ember Technologies Inc.)

Research roundup: Natural convection heat transfer; simulation of hysteresis effects; PCM in roofs; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Effect of using nanoparticles on the performance of thermal energy storage of phase change material coupled with air-conditioning unit
Numerical study on the effect of non-uniform magnetic fields on melting and solidification characteristics of NEPCMs in an annulus enclosure
Solidification behavior of binary eutectic phase change material in a vertical finned thermal storage system dispersed with graphene nano-plates

From International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer:

A method to evaluate natural convection heat transfer in microencapsulated phase change material (MPCM) slurry: An experimental study
Dynamic of plumes and scaling during the melting of a Phase Change Material heated from below

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Experimental investigation of the thermal performance of heat pipe assisted phase change material for battery thermal management system
Low-temperature macro-encapsulated phase change material based thermal energy storage system without air void space design

From Energy and Buildings:

Modeling and experimental validation of an algorithm for simulation of hysteresis effects in phase change materials for building components
Thermal performance and numerical simulation of geopolymer concrete containing different types of thermoregulating materials for passive building applications

From Solar Energy:

How to enhance thermal energy storage effect of PCM in roofs with varying solar reflectance: Experimental and numerical assessment of a new roof system for passive cooling in different climate conditions

From Energy:

A facile approach to synthesize microencapsulated phase change materials embedded with silver nanoparticle for both thermal energy storage and antimicrobial purpose

From Reference Module in Materials Science and Materials Engineering:

Materials, Design and Development of Latent Heat Storage Systems for Medium and Large-Scale Applications: Issues and Challenges

From Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications:

Melting process in porous media around two hot cylinders: Numerical study using the lattice Boltzmann method

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Synthesis and characterization of chain-extended and branched polyurethane copolymers as form stable phase change materials for solar thermal conversion storage

From Construction and Building Materials:

Investigation of different materials for macroencapsulation of salt hydrate phase change materials for building purposes

From Journal of Energy Storage:

CFD thermal energy storage enhancement of PCM filling a cylindrical cavity equipped with submerged heating sources
Performance analysis of industrial PCM heat storage lab prototype

Research roundup: Heat transfer enhancement of PCMs; CuO/palmitic acid composite; cooking applications; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

From Materials Today: Proceedings:

Investigation of thermal performance by applying a solar chimney with PCM towards the natural ventilation of model house under Climate of Thailand
Study of Solar– PCM Walls for domestic hot water production under the tropical climate of Thailand
Improved Performance of Composite Phase Change Material for Thermal Energy Storage
Experimental investigation on freezing/melting characteristics of two different phase change materials
Review on Heat Transfer Enhancement of Phase Change Materials (PCMs)
Experimental Investigation of Improved Thermal Characteristics of Al2O3/Barium Hydroxide Octa Hydrate as Phase Change Materials (PCMs)
Improved Thermal Energy Storage Behavior of CuO/Palmitic acid Composite as Phase Change Material

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

An Experimental Investigation of the Melting Process of a Bio-based Nano-PCM filled Vertical Cylindrical Thermal Energy Storage System

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Experimental investigation of the effects of mass fraction and temperature on the viscosity of microencapsulated PCM slurry

From Journal of the Brazilian Society of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering:

Rapid thermal cycling of three phase change materials (PCMs) for cooking applications

From 3rd Thermal and Fluids Engineering Conference:

Use of Wood/Phase Change Material Composite in the Building Envelope for Building Thermal Control and Energy Savings

Patent application: System and method of heat management for vehicle

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180156146 (applicants Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp., Seoul, South Korea):

"A system of heat management of a vehicle may include a cooling line in which coolant cooling an engine flows therethrough; an exhaust heat retrieving apparatus for retrieving heat of exhaust gas discharged from a combustion chamber of the engine through operation fluid; a heat storage apparatus which stores heat of exhaust gas retrieved by the exhaust heat retrieving apparatus using the operation fluid and includes phase change material; a coolant heat exchanger in which heat stored in the heat storage apparatus and the coolant are heat-exchanged; a driving information detector for detecting a driving information including a temperature of the coolant and a temperature of the phase change material; and a controller for controlling the temperature of the coolant through the exhaust heat retrieving apparatus or the heat storage apparatus based on the temperature of the coolant and the temperature of the phase change material when the vehicle starts."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180156146.pdf

Related patent applications:

Method and system for exhaust heat recovery (Ford Global Technologies)
HVAC systems for electrically powered vehicles (BorgWarner Inc.)

Patent application: Thermal solution for prismatic lithium ion battery pack

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180159189 (applicant Advanced Energy Technologies LLC, Lakewood, Ohio):

"A lithium ion battery pack includes a plurality of prismatic lithium polymer cells and one or more graphite heat spreaders. Each spreader has at least two major surfaces and is made of one of a sheet of a compressed mass of exfoliated graphite particles, a graphitized polyimide sheet, or combinations thereof. ... In any of the above embodiments, at least one of the spaces between adjacent heat spreaders 36 or between the heat spreader 36 and an adjacent cell 32 may be at least partially filled with a layer of a phase change material."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180159189.pdf

Patent application: Thermal energy storage with enhanced transition array

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180156546 (inventors Najih Naser, Abdel-Rahman Naser and Amna Naser, Cary, N.C.)

"This invention represents a significant improvement and solution to slow crystallization rates and phase transition of thermal storage materials. The primary objective is to produce highly responsive, thin, light weight storage panels with high thermal mass and efficient thermal charging and discharging of energy for use in building spaces, walls, ceilings, floor boards, underlayment flooring, strategic heat storage walls (fireplaces and kitchen areas), positively impact low thermal mass and light weight buildings as well as the exterior thermal envelope including siding boards and stone veneer. Such applications can reduce costs of heating and air conditioning while enhancing occupant comfort with a cooling effect and reduction in temperature swings."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180156546.pdf

Patent application: Phase change material for use in non-food and food applications

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180155595 (applicant DuPont Nutrition Biosciences, Copenhagen, Denmark): 

"This invention describes a phase change material being 1,3-propanediol ester where the 1,3-propanediol ester can be either a 1,3-propanediol monoester or a 1,3-propanediol diester. This invention further describes the use of 1,3-propanediol ester as a phase change material for releasing or absorbing latent heat during melting or crystallization. This invention also describes the use of the phase change material for use in non-food and food applications."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180155595.pdf