Researchers at the University of Zwickau's Institute for Textile and Leather Technologies are developing a latent heat storage mat that uses phase change material to increase plant root temperatures in cold seasons.
The passive system, designed for use in greenhouses, requires no additional energy supply. Dr. Silke Hessberg, who is directing the research, says root climate control promotes plant growth efficiently.
"There are already various heating systems on the market, such as underfloor heating systems, hot water systems or electric and gas heaters," she says. "These are always cost-intensive heating systems, since energy must be actively supplied."
The Thuringian Institute of Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) is supporting the two-year project. TITK's Martin Geissenhöner identifies the PCM as paraffin.
"We have different melting points. For the root project we use melting points between 5 and 42° C, specially 17° C," he says. "The PCM is encapsulated in a network polymer. It's like a sponge structure."
Research associate Nancy Schrader says the mats are placed on the soil surface. Work on the project began in May 2015 and is expected to conclude in December.