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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.




U.S. energy storage capacity poised for rapid growth

Ben Welter - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

U.S. energy storage capacity is expected to more than triple over the next five years, according to a new report from GTM Research. Utility-scale installations accounted for 90 percent of new capacity in 2014, according to the report, but behind-the-meter storage, such as Ice Energy's load-shifting Ice Bear system, is gaining momentum. Analysts predict a "break-out" year for that segment in 2015, putting it on track to make up 45 percent of the overall market by the end of 2019.

Here's a summary from the Christian Science Monitor:

Research roundup: Insulated greenhouse with shutters; nano-media supercooling; multi-split air source heat pump

Ben Welter - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The effect of nocturnal shutter on insulated greenhouse using a solar air heater with latent storage energy [Solar Energy]

Supercooling and cold energy storage characteristics of nano-media in ball-packed porous structures [AIP Advances]

Defrosting performances of a multi-split air source heat pump with phase change thermal storage [International Journal of Refrigeration]

Outlast PCM/down filling material makes FabricLink's Top 10

Ben Welter - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Outlast Technologies' Universe PCM/down filling material has won a place on FabricLink's list of top 10 textile innovations for 2014-2015. The filling material "adds lightness, fluffy volume and naturalness, while regulating and optimizing the climate comfort."

The award honors commercially available materials and technologies that have launched during the past year. Other winners this year include 3M's Thinsulate Featherless Insulation, Carhartt's flame-resistant Extremes Arctic outerwear and Freudenberg's nonwoven polyester lining material.

Ohio teen's PCM proposal wins MIT THINK award

Ben Welter - Monday, March 23, 2015

Aditya JobAn Ohio teen's proposal to use phase change material to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic panels is one of three winners in MIT's annual THINK competition. Aditya Jog, a sophomore at Mason High School near Cincinnati, will receive $2,000 to build his project, a $500 scholarship and project mentorship from MIT students.

"Photovoltaic cells have the potential to utilize the planet’s most plentiful renewable energy source, yet their widespread use has been impeded because of relatively low efficiency," he wrote in his application. "The solar to electrical conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices suffers when they operate at elevated temperatures. Current solutions rely on active heat dissipation, increasing both capital and operating costs. This proposal offers an alternative, passive heat dissipation system that employs a solid-liquid phase change material as a temperature regulator."

The THINK Scholars Program, sponsored this year by Thomson Reuters, is run by a team of MIT undergraduate students.

Research roundup: Polymethyl methacrylate; Lattice Boltzmann simulation; geopolymer mortar; kaolin-based composite PCM

Ben Welter - Friday, March 20, 2015

Polymethyl methacrylate based phase change microencapsulation for solar energy storage with silicon nitride [Solar Energy]

Lattice Boltzmann simulation for solid–liquid phase change phenomenon of phase change material under constant heat flux [International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer]

Experimental study of geopolymer mortar with incorporated PCM [Construction and Building Materials]

Fabrication and thermal characterization of kaolin-based composite phase change materials for latent heat storage in buildings [Energy and Buildings]

Austin's NexusHaus features rainwater thermal storage system

Ben Welter - Friday, March 20, 2015

Austin EcoNetwork says an 850-square-foot solar-powered house under development in Austin demonstrates the "creative thinking" needed to address the Texas city's limited access to local food, high energy demands, strained water resources and urban sprawl. NexusHaus, a collaboration of the University of Texas, the Technical University of Munich and the city of Austin, is designed to be an affordable solution. Features include "an integrated rainwater thermal storage system" that will shift cooling to off-peak hours and help cut energy consumption by about 80 percent during peak hours.

Patent application: Engineered foam and foam mattress with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sealy patent application 20150067967U.S. patent application 20150067967 [Assignee Sealy Technology LLC]: 

"In accordance with one aspect of the disclosure and inventions, there is provided engineered foam for use as a layer in a foam mattress construction having multiple layers including a top layer of foam and at least one additional layer of foam, and a coating of phase change material applied to a top surface of the top layer of foam. Surface application of phase change material to a top surface of a top layer of foam of a foam mattress provides more efficient transfer of heat away from a body on the mattress and reduced heat accumulation at the body-mattress interface."

A checklist for those considering an ice energy storage system

Ben Welter - Thursday, March 19, 2015

CALMAC, maker of ice-based energy storage systems, offers a short checklist for building owners who are considering such a system:

• Check your utility's time-of-use rates, demand charges and incentives. Electricity is usually cheaper at night, but you might have to do a little digging to understand all the pricing factors.

• Check the amount of space available on your site. Ice storage tanks can be placed in basements, on roofs, in storerooms and in garages.

• Check the availability of contractors who can provide support before and after the system is installed.

Modular 'Aktivhaus' produces no emissions or waste, derives no energy from fossil fuel

Ben Welter - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Aktivhaus modular home in Stuttgart, Germany

Architect/engineer Werner Sobek's latest creation, a prototype of a modular home that generates twice as much energy as it uses, is featured in a CNN piece this week. The 900-square-foot Aktivhaus dwelling in Stuttgart, Germany, can be assembled in a single day. It is designed to produce no emissions or waste and derive no energy from fossil fuel, a standard that Sobek refers to as "Triple Zero." The house is packed with energy-efficient features, including a rooftop solar system that produces electricity and heat, and a thermal-regulation system linked to an underground ice storage tank.

"In summer, the ice is used to cool the house. By melting, it absorbs heat energy," Sobek says. "In winter, it gradually freezes. Each time a chunk of water turns into ice, a certain amount of heat energy is released, which is then used to heat the house via a heat pump, which brings the energy to a higher temperature level."