The effectiveness of bio-based phase change material is being tested in a 200-square-foot “tiny house” under construction at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.
Katie Schneider, a junior majoring in engineering physics, is chairing the two-year student project, which is scheduled for completion in May 2018.
Though its interior is incomplete, the Mines Tiny House was exhibited at last month’s Solar Decathlon in Denver. Schneider said the project attracted interest from representatives of the energy and sustainability industry, as well as from other schools that might want to partner with the School of Mines for the next Solar Decathlon in 2020.
“It was a great experience for us to interact with others interested in what we're doing,” Schneider said, “and we got plenty of good ideas from the competitors as well.”
Entries in the Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, are judged on energy efficiency, design, affordability and consumer appeal.
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas, one of 11 teams in this year’s decathlon, used a PCM product in the ceiling of its entry, a 990-square-foot home that won first place in the innovation category. Ecole Polytechnique of Lausanne, Switzerland, was the overall winner.
The School of Mines team is installing ENRG Blankets donated by Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C. The multi-layer polymer mats, shown above, contain plant-based PCM with a melt-freeze transition temperature of 23º C (73º F). The mats are designed to absorb, store and release energy to help keep living spaces at comfortable temperatures and reduce energy costs.
"We plan to put the PCMs in the ceiling first, between the insulation and our ceiling paneling," Schneider said. "We want to take temperature measurements with and without the PCMs to really test their effectiveness. Then we will possibly put them in the walls, especially near the wheel wells of the trailer because that is a vulnerable point of heat loss for the tiny house."