Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF in Darmstadt, Germany, have developed a new phase change composite material designed to reduce the surface temperature of dashboards in vehicles.
Springer Professional of Germany has a good summary [translated from the German original]:
"The composite is suitable for a temperature phase transition and consists of a carrier material made of polyethylene, which can store energy. The filler graphite, on the other hand, ensures rapid heat dissipation. In a cyclic process of heating and cooling phases, the scientists were able to achieve a temperature reduction of 46 percent or 41 degrees Celsius compared to a conventional polypropylene-talc compound dashboard."
Fraunhofer, of course, offers a more detailed look [also translated from German]:
"To demonstrate the benefits of the new material, the scientists built this component into the dashboard of an electric vehicle to subsequently create a cycle of heating and cooling phases. The cooling was provided by Peltier elements. These electrothermal transducers are in turn cooled by external fans. The energy for Peltier elements and coolers comes from an additional 12 V battery powered by photovoltaic power.
"The energy released during the phase transition was used by the LBF researchers to switch on the Peltier elements only for a certain period of time. In this way, the fans do not have to constantly run at maximum power. By appropriate regulation, the cooling system is coupled to the temperature in the material. This should lead to a higher life expectancy of the electronic components. Thanks to a clever setting of the starting point of the working group, the Smart Cover Panel is controlled by the sunlight itself. This means that cooling only starts in hot summer days, and in winter the coveted warmth stays in the dashboard."