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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.




Research roundup: Polythioether-based PCMS; alginate encapsulation; temperature stresses in concrete pavement; more

Ben Welter - Friday, May 08, 2020

From European Polymer Journal:

Extremely fast synthesis of polythioether based phase change materials (PCMs) for thermal energy storage

From Journal of Building Engineering:

Thermal behavior analysis of hollow bricks filled with phase-change material (PCM)

From Energies:

FEM Applied to Building Physics: Modeling Solar Radiation and Heat Transfer of PCM Enhanced Test Cells

From Iranian Polymer Journal:

Encapsulation of phase change materials with alginate modified by nanostructured sodium carbonate and silicate

From Energy & Fuels:

Aluminium ammonium sulfate dodecahydrate with multiple additives as composite phase change materials for thermal energy storage

From Materials Today: Proceedings:

Evaluation and reduction of temperature stresses in concrete pavement by using phase changing material
Optimization of Heat Energy Based on Phase Change Materials used in Solar Collector using Taguchi Method
Experimental and Theoretical Investigations on Thermal Conductivity of the Paraffin Wax using CuO Nanoparticles

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Novel synthesis of silica coated palmitic acid nanocapsules for thermal energy storage
Recent progress in phase change materials storage containers: Geometries, design considerations and heat transfer improvement methods
Effect of phase separation and supercooling on the storage capacity in a commercial latent heat thermal energy storage: Experimental cycling of a salt hydrate PCM
Energy efficiency optimization of the waste heat recovery system with embedded phase change materials in greenhouses: A thermo-economic-environmental study
Characterization of innovative mortars with direct incorporation of phase change materials

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

A trade study of a phase change system in a stratospheric airship based on a triple gasbag concept
Experimental evaluation of structural insulated panels outfitted with phase change materials
Lattice Boltzmann simulation of melting heat transfer in a composite phase change material

From Geothermics:

Parametric modeling and simulation of low temperature energy storage for cold-climate multi-family residences using a geothermal heat pump system with integrated phase change material storage tank

From Energy:

Multi-level uncertainty optimisation on phase change materials integrated renewable systems with hybrid ventilations and active cooling
A novel solar thermal system combining with active phase-change material heat storage wall (STS-APHSW): Dynamic model, validation and thermal performance

From Advances in Energy Research:

Theoretical Modeling of Phase Change Material-Based Space Heating Using Solar Energy

From Chemical Engineering Journal:

High latent heat and recyclable form-stable phase change materials prepared via a facile self-template method

From Composites Part B: Engineering:

In situ one-step construction of monolithic silica aerogel-based composite phase change materials for thermal protection

From Solar Energy:

Effects of external insulation component on thermal performance of a Trombe wall with phase change materials

From Journal of Architectural Engineering:

Experimental and Numerical Thermal Properties Investigation of Cement-Based Materials Modified with PCM for Building Construction Use

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Experimental and numerical study on the thermal performance of ventilated roof composed with multiple phase change material (VR-MPCM)

From Construction and Building Materials:

Multi-scale analysis on thermal properties of cement-based materials containing micro-encapsulated phase change materials

From Applied Energy:

D-mannitol@silica/graphene oxide nanoencapsulated phase change material with high phase change properties and thermal reliability
Novel bio-based phase change materials with high enthalpy for thermal energy storage

From Materials Today Energy:

A detailed review on heat transfer rate, supercooling, thermal stability and reliability of nanoparticle dispersed organic phase change material for low-temperature applications

From International Journal of Thermal Sciences:

Experimental study and assessment of high-tech thermal energy storing radiant floor heating system with latent heat storage materials

From Advanced Powder Technology:

Paraffin core-polymer shell micro-encapsulated phase change materials and expanded graphite particles as an enhanced energy storage medium in heat exchangers

Cubesat propulsion concept wins $225,000 National Science Foundation grant

Ben Welter - Friday, February 14, 2020

A Cubesat propulsion system that uses phase change material to store solar thermal energy for use when needed has been awarded a $225,000 National Science Foundation SBIR grant. The ThermaSat concept, developed by Howe Industries of Tempe, Ariz., is designed to provide propulsion for a typical 15kg cubcubesat for 10 years.

Cubesats are tiny satellites — weighing as little as 200 grams — that orbit close to Earth’s atmosphere. They are cheaper to develop and launch than larger satellites. Cubesats have a wide range of purposes, including the collection of mapping and weather data. More than 1,100 have been successfully deployed.

Troy Howe, owner of Howe Industries, answered questions about the ThermaSat propulsion system.

Q: How long has your company been working on the concept?

A: "We have been working on this topic for only about a year in preparation for our NSF proposal, but have experience with optical systems and phase change materials going back about five years."

Q: Can you briefly describe how the system works?

A: "The ThermaSat works by heating liquid water propellant to high temperature steam using incident sunlight. Normally, it is difficult to reach high enough temperatures to use water as propellant, but our optical filtration system is designed to reject long wavelengths of light and only transmit short wavelengths- similar to the greenhouse effect. The phase change materials in the thermal capacitor store the solar energy over a period of hours and then heat the propellant during a 'burn' phase.

ThermaSat cutaway drawing"The PCM will be distributed throughout a graphite matrix in the form of small beads. Flow channels will run axially down the length of the cylinder for the propellant to pass through. The design is based loosely on the old NERVA fuel elements from the nuclear rocket program in the 1970s, with the UC kernels being replaced with our PCM. The drawing here shows a cutaway of the thermal capacitor surrounded by the optical system.

"The system is very conceptual at this point and has not been tested, although the propulsion characteristics are well understood. Our task at this point is to show that the optical system works as predicted and can reach the desired temperatures. Phase II will address the effects of a vacuum environment on a prototype."

Q: What type of PCM is used?

A: "We chose a salt (80LiOH+20LiF) as our PCM, it melts at 700K and has a latent heat of fusion of 1163 J/g. The material was selected based on a study performed by NASA in 1986 on space energy storage. The paper was called 'Technology for Brayton-Cycle Space Powerplants Using Solar and Nuclear Energy' by Robert English.""

Q: How much PCM would be used in a system powering a typical Cubesat?

A: "The standard design includes 0.62 kg of PCM. "

Q: Are you working with any Cubesat manufacturers at this point?

A: "We received letters of interest from Pumpkin Space Systems, Aster Labs, and Arizona State University. They all expressed interest in having a safe and reliable Cubesat propulsion system but we have not formally formed collaboration with any manufacturers at this point.”

Q: How will you use the NSF SBIR grant?

A: "Our goals for this topic include demonstrating the optical system in a lab bench test, fabricating photonic crystals, and performing computational analysis on the thermal, structural, and propulsion systems."

Q: What's the next major step in commercializing the system?

A: "Our commercialization strategy right now is to build a functioning prototype and demonstrate operation on earth. From that point we will aim to do a flight test which performs a set of orbital maneuvers and successfully de-orbits itself. From there we will work with Cubesat manufacturers to move forward."

Q: What excites you most about this project?

A: "We are excited about how near term and effective this technology will be for the upcoming Cubesat revolution. We hope to provide a safe, reliable, and effective propulsion solution that can be used with thousands of different satellites and drastically increase the performance of new technologies in space in the timeframe of just a few years.”

PCM briefing: Cold chain veteran joins Phase Change Energy Solutions; Outlast showcases new nylon filament yarn

Ben Welter - Friday, May 10, 2019

Bruce TruesdaleBruce Truesdale has joined Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C., as director of business development - cold chain. He was formerly senior supply chain consultant at Verta Life Sciences and director of health care at Protek Pharma Worldwide. He declined an interview request, but his new job title suggests that PCES, whose product line now focuses on HVAC, building and thermal energy storage, has an interest in the temperature-controlled packaging market. Earlier this year, PCES announced an investment by Pegasus Capital Advisors, Emerald Technology Ventures and Third Prime, an early-stage venture fund and prior investor. The company said it would use the proceeds to fund the continued development of its thermal storage products and expand its operations globally.

Chalmers University of Technology of Sweden has an opening for a postdoctoral researcher in thermal energy storage for building applications. The research group Building Physics is working "to find out how novel TES with phase change materials (PCM) could complement the existing district heating and cooling networks and co-operate with other peak shaving techniques (water accumulator tanks, ground heat storage pumps, etc.) through smart thermal grids." The application deadline is June 9.

Outlast will showcase its new nylon filament yarn at the Techtextil trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, next week. "The PCMs optimized for this specific application," Outlast says, "are included directly inside the polyamide fibers." Potential applications include next-to-skin products such as undergarments, shapewear, sportswear and hosiery. The company says it now sources the majority of PCMs used in its products from renewable instead of synthetic raw materials.

PCM coolerA PCM coating designed to absorb heat from rockets is among the dozens of NASA spinoffs listed in the latest issue of Spinoff, an annual publication that has been documenting space agency spinoffs since 1976. In the early 2000s, Raj Kaul, a materials scientist at Marshall Space Flight Center, began researching a way to use PCM to keep the outside of spacecraft at a safe temperature. An entrepreneur eventually snapped up the patent for the coating Kaul developed and is working on a number of products based on the technology, including aircraft paint, pipe heat traps and an iceless cooler, shown at right. 

• The U.S. Department of Energy this week announced $89 million in funding for "innovative, advanced manufacturing research and development projects." "Innovations for the Manufacture of Advanced Materials," one of three areas to receive funding, includes phase change storage materials for heating and cooling applications. The department anticipates making up to 55 awards for up to three years. Concept papers are due on June 20.

Patent application: Enclosure cooling for thermal management of unmanned aerial vehicles

Ben Welter - Friday, January 11, 2019

Qualcomm drone patent drawing

U.S. patent application 20190009878 (applicant Qualcomm Inc., San Diego, Calif.):

"Arrangements described herein relate to apparatuses, systems, and methods for a housing of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the housing includes but is not limited to a metallic porous material having a shape of an enclosure of the UAV, and a phase change material (PCM) provided in at least a portion of the metallic porous material. The metallic porous material and the PCM are configured to passively cool the UAV."

PCM briefing: Isomer can store energy for up to 18 years; concept combines pumped storage and heat storage using water as a medium

Ben Welter - Friday, November 02, 2018

• Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Universidad de La Rioja have created a system capable of storing solar energy for extended periods. The Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage system uses a molecular photo switch made from carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Sunlight turns the molecule into an energy-rich isomer. The isomer can be stored in a liquid form to be used for heating at night or in winter. “The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for,” said Kasper Moth-Poulsen, professor at Chalmers.

• New research at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reveals how an unusual type of ice known as Ice VII can form at speeds over 1,000 miles per hour. "This ice type was only discovered occurring naturally in March, trapped inside diamonds deep underground," reports Science Alert, "and this latest study looks in detail at how exactly it takes shape – apparently in a way that's completely different to how water usually freezes into ice."

• A research team at the Graz University of Technology, Austria, has combined the advantages of pumped storage technology and heat storage using water as a medium in a hybrid storage concept called "hot-water pumped storage hydropower." The new system stores and supplies electricity, heat and cooling energy. 

• The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has openings for program directors, tech-to-market advisors and two-year fellowships.  

Registration is open for the 2019 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, to be held in Denver, Colo., July 8-10. Now in its 10th year, the annual conference and technology showcase "brings together experts from different technical disciplines and professional communities to think about America’s energy challenges in new and innovative ways."

A full agenda is available for the World Bio Markets conference, to be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, April 1-3. Speakers include Rolf Hogan, executive director, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials; Chris Sayner, vice president customer alliances, corporate sustainability, Croda; and Davide Bragholi, project manager, environmental innovations, Tetra Pak. 

• Registration is open for the inaugural Thermal Materials Summit to be held in Los Angeles on May 2. This technical forum will explore the latest advancements in thermal interface materials for professionals working in aerospace, automotive, telecom, batteries and other fields. Presentation proposals are due by Dec. 7.

Ecozen Solutions of India is one of five finalists in Rabobank’s inaugural Food Loss Challenge Asia. The competition aims to identify innovative ag-tech start-ups working to solve farm-to-market food loss problems. The finalists will present their solutions to a panel of judges at Rabobank’s annual Asia Food & Agribusiness advisory board meeting in Singapore later this month. Ecozen makes portable solar cold rooms for small farms, using a thermal storage unit that can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather.

Aerospace manufacturer seeks PCM for use in heat exchanger

Ben Welter - Monday, August 20, 2018

An aerospace/defense contractor in Bengaluru, India, is looking for a noncorrosive phase change material with high thermal conductivity and a heat storage capacity of 280 joules per gram. Rangsons Defence Solutions Pvt. Ltd. says the PCM will be used in a heat exchanger the company is developing for an aerospace application.

This document describes the heat exchanger and lists the properties of the required PCM:

Specifications for PCM heat exchanger

Contact Sivaram Subramanian, an associate mechanical engineer at Rangsons Defence Solutions, for additional information on the heat exchanger. His e-mail address is

Patent application: Use of PCMs to delay icing or to cause de-icing in wind-driven generators

Ben Welter - Sunday, August 19, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180230972 (applicant Gamesa Innovation & Technology, S.L., Sarriguren, Spain):

"The invention relates to the use of phase change materials (PCMs) to delay icing or to cause de-icing in different wind-driven power generator elements. The invention also relates to the method for delaying icing or causing de-icing in different wind-driven power generator elements based on the use of phase change materials (PCMs), said method comprising: a) obtaining the PCMs, and b) incorporating the PCMs obtained into different wind-driven power generator elements."

Patent application: Method and system for phase change material component cooling

Ben Welter - Monday, August 06, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180216894 (applicant General Electric Co., Schenectady, N.Y.)

"A transient cooling system includes a first phase change material (PCM) element and a second PCM element. The first PCM element includes a first PCM, a first surface, and a second surface, the first surface complementary to a surface to be cooled. The second PCM element includes a second PCM and a third surface in thermal contact with the second surface. The first PCM and the second PCM may have different thermal characteristics."

Patent application: Thermal management device using phase change material

Ben Welter - Monday, June 04, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180149437 (applicant Boeing Co., Chicago, Ill.):

"A device manages thermal energy applied to a composite patch on a structure having a heat sink. The device includes an enclosure configured to be placed on the structure overlying the composite patch, and a phase change material within the enclosure for absorbing the thermal energy."

Patent application: Passive thermal system comprising heat pipe and PCM for use in space

Ben Welter - Thursday, May 24, 2018

WorldVu Satellites patent drawing
U.S. patent application 20180134416, (applicant WorldVu Satellites Ltd., Arlington, Va.):

"A passive thermal system for use in a satellite and other aerospace applications includes a container having a heat-pipe working fluid disposed in a first chamber and a Phase Change Material (PCM) disposed in a second chamber that substantially surrounds the first chamber. The first chamber contains a wick for transporting the heat-pipe working fluid. The exterior of the first chamber has fins, etc., that extend into the PCM for heat spreading and increased interface area."