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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.




What a concept: Sneakers that change colors with a tap of an app

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shift Sneaker concept shoe

Rehabstudios, "a creative technology company" with offices in New York, London and Belfast, is developing a sneaker that can change colors with a tap on a smartphone or a click of a heel. In response to electrical impulses, phase change fibers will shift the shape of translucent materials that bend light in different ways. It's purely a concept at this point, with no prototypes or manufacturing plans. The developer is using the #ShiftSneaker hashtag to spread the word:

"Shift Sneaker users will be able to shift sneaker style and functionality by downloading different ‘packs’ from a Pack Store – a sneaker-specific app store. Styles will range from subtle glows to animated graphics from world leading designers and creatives, and rare limited editions from artists and brands."

Research roundup: Galactitol-mannitol mix; palmitic acid copolymers; biomedical applications; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cyclic stability of the eutectic mixture of galactitol and D-mannitolA eutectic mixture of galactitol and mannitol as a phase change material for latent heat storage [Energy Conversion and Management]

A Novel Solid-Solid Phase Change Material Based on Poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile) Grafting With Palmitic Acid Copolymers [Journal of Macromolecular Science]

Development of thermal energy storage materials for biomedical applications [Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology]

Economic top-down evaluation of the costs of energy storages—A simple economic truth in two equations [Journal of Energy Storage]

Preparation of Erythritol-Graphite Foam Phase Change Composite with Enhanced Thermal Conductivity for Thermal Energy Storage Applications [Carbon]

Solar Water Distillation Using Energy Storage Material [Procedia Earth and Planetary Science]

A Review on Solar Water Distillation Using Sensible and Latent Heat [Procedia Earth and Planetary Science]

Research roundup: Polyurethane/docosane microcapsules; district heating; nanoparticles; water tank shapes; more

Ben Welter - Monday, June 29, 2015

New Polyurethane/Docosane Microcapsules as Phase-Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage [Chemistry - A European Journal]

On-sun demonstration of a 750° C heat transfer fluid for concentrating solar systems: Dense particle suspension in tube [Solar Energy]

Thermodynamic analysis and performance assessment of an integrated heat pump system for district heating applications [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Preparation and properties of lauric acid/diatomite composites as novel form-stable phase change materials for thermal energy storage [Energy and Buildings]

A New Phase Change Material Based on Potassium Nitrate with Silica and Alumina Nanoparticles for Thermal Energy Storage [pdf] [Nanoscale Research Letters]

Comparative study of the influences of different water tank shapes on thermal energy storage capacity and thermal stratification [Renewable Energy]

Energy Storage Applications | An Introduction to Phase Change Materials [Thermal Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials]

Assessing the feasibility of incorporating phase change material in hot mix asphalt [Sustainable Cities and Society]

PCMs keep headache-relief wrap cooler longer

Ben Welter - Friday, June 26, 2015

Hammacher Schlemmer headache wrapWrap your head around this: Phase change materials are being used to relieve headache pain. Hammacher Schlemmer says PCM gel packs allow the new Superior Headache Relieving Wrap to "stay cool 200% longer than typical models." A spokeswoman was unable to identify the PCM type but said it is "nontoxic and nonflammable," with a melting point of 14º C.

Solar desalination system in California uses thermal storage to run 24x7

Ben Welter - Friday, June 26, 2015

The Panoche Water District in California's parched San Joaquin Valley is working to clean up and reuse irrigation water tainted by salts, selenium, boron and other minerals.

WaterFX desalination systemThe pilot project uses solar collectors to concentrate heat on water in clear piping. The evaporation process removes most of the minerals, leaving behind potable water that contains less than 5 parts per million of dissolved salts. 

"Because the process relies on solar energy, and we store heat during the day in thermal storage units, we operate 24 hours a day," treatment plant coordinator Betty Hurley Lindeman told Ag Alert, the weekly newspaper of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "The plant requires very little commercial power and has very low air emissions."

The technology, developed by San Francisco start-up WaterFX, features solar-collector mirrors, an absorption heat pump, a multi-stage distillation system and thermal storage units. The company says the system will eventually be capable of producing up to 1.6 billion gallons of freshwater a year and help the district to stop discharging agricultural water into the San Joaquin River by 2019. 

I haven't been able to reach WaterFX to get details on the thermal storage units. CSP Today, in a story posted in February 2014, said the units are designed for temperatures between 165º C and 235º C and utilize "a specially formulated thermal concrete with embedded heat exchanger tubes."

Patent application: Thermal energy storage system

Ben Welter - Thursday, June 25, 2015

U.S. patent application 20150176920: "A device including first and second heat accumulators, each including thermal energy storage containers. Each container includes an insulating enclosure containing earth crossed by at least one first line for the circulation of a first heat transfer fluid and at least one second line for the circulation of a second heat transfer fluid."

Research roundup: PCM and cement; nanotube composites; expanded graphite; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, June 25, 2015

Application of Phase Change Materials to Improve the Thermal Performance of Cementitious Material [Energy and Buildings]

Study on the phase change thermal storage performance of palmitic acid/carbon nanotubes composites [Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing]

Positive influence of expanded graphite on the physical behavior of phase change materials based on linear low-density polyethylene and paraffin wax [Thermochimica Acta]

CO2 mitigation accounting for Thermal Energy Storage (TES) case studies [Applied Energy]

Binary Solid-Liquid Equilibrium Systems Containing Fatty Acids, Fatty Alcohols and Triolein by Differential Scanning Calorimetry [Fluid Phase Equilibria]

Development of a numerical model for the reaction zone design of an aqueous sodium hydroxide seasonal thermal energy storage [Solar Energy]

Power plant cooling research focuses on tiny paraffin beads in 'rotary heat exchanger'

Ben Welter - Monday, June 22, 2015

Drexel University offers a detailed look at the novel dry-cooling technology being studied to reduce water use at thermoelectric plants. The research team, which includes Drexel, the University of Memphis, Evapco, WorleyParsons and the Electric Power Research Institute, is focusing on phase change material in the form of tiny wax beads:

PCM cooling unit"The group’s design uses large mesh disks, 20 meters in diameter, woven from quarter-inch-thick tubes filled with tiny bead-like capsules of paraffin just a few millimeters in diameter. The discs would be stacked 15 meters-high in a cylinder the team calls a 'rotary heat exchanger unit.' With the look of a sophisticated water wheel, the unit will have openings on the top and bottom for hot water to flow in, cooled water to drain out and ambient air to keep the system moving.

"As the hot water enters the unit from the steam condenser, the beads in the mesh will absorb the heat. The discs will continue to rotate as the water enters the unit. When the heated portion of the disc reaches the cooling side of the unit, ambient air is pumped in to let the beads release the heat before returning to the atmosphere outside the plant. The cooled beads spin back to the other side as the disc rotates, ready to repeat the process."

Research roundup: PCM cooling vest; thermo-regulating fabric; design of heated enclosures

Ben Welter - Friday, June 19, 2015

Modeling the efficiency and heat gain of a phase change material cooling vest: The effect of ambient temperature and outer isolation [Journal of Industrial Textiles]

Investigation on the Thermo-Regulating Fabric by Using Phase Change Material for Modern Textile Practical Application [American Journal of Polymer Science & Engineering]

Geometrical and Thermal Parameters for Integrated Heated Enclosures Design: A Review [pdf] [Journal of Advanced Review on Scientific Research]

Sonoco ThermoSafe's new Via Blood Transporter features PureTemp PCM

Ben Welter - Friday, June 19, 2015

Sonoco ThermoSafe has introduced a new reusable container for the transport and temporary storage of red blood cells and platelets. 

Via Blood TransporterThe Via Blood Transporter maintains red blood cells at 1-6° Celsius for eight hours during transport and 1-10° C for the temporary storage of blood product for a minimum of 12 hours. The container is made of expanded polypropylene and features PureTemp biobased phase change material.

“The Via Blood Transporter was designed in accordance with blood bank user feedback,” said Marianne Hoonakker-Kelly, Sonoco ThermoSafe business development and market manager.  “Unique and innovative features such as the front platelet pouch and affixed assembly instructions not only promote compliance, transport efficiencies and minimized risk of loss due to mishandling – they ultimately promote patient safety. Given the cost pressures applied to health care systems, products like the Via Blood Transporter are critical as they ensure recommended temperature protection while preventing the waste and loss of valuable blood product.”