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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.

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PCM briefing: Acumen invests in Promethean Power Systems; Viking Cold wins Cleanie award

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

• Social venture capital investor Acumen has invested an undisclosed amount in Promethean Power Systems Inc., which makes PCM-based refrigeration systems for cold-storage and milk chilling applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. Jiten Ghelani, chief executive of Promethean, which is based in Boston, Mass., and Pune, India, said the investment would help the company accelerate the adoption of its products across India and other markets, and also expand its cooling-as-a-service offerings. 

Air New Zealand pillow• Two new consumer products featuring temperature-control fabrics from Outlast Technologies hit the market recently: A pillow designed to improve the quality of sleep for passengers on Air New Zealand's long-haul flights and a Calloway pullover designed to keep golfers cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, Texas, won a Platinum Cleanie Award last month for a PCM-based storage and demand management project in Massachusetts. The Cleanie Awards, presented at this year's North America Smart Energy Week in Salt Lake City, Utah, recognize companies and individuals shaping the clean-tech and renewable energy industries. The Viking Cold project involved the installation and commissioning of TES systems to store refrigeration energy and facilitate 1.3 MW of energy demand reduction across eight customer facilities, including the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Sonoco ThermoSafe of Arlington Heights, Ill., has introduced a new temperature-controlled box rental service. "The new Orion r product line is based on the existing ChillTech product," said Ben VanderPlas, manager of engineering and product management at Sonoco. "We’ve made changes to make the product more reusable (added EPP) and have increased the VIP insulation. The PCMs remain the same, using paraffin-based materials. ChillTech was developed by Laminar Medica in the UK prior to their acquisition and integration into the ThermoSafe business. Solutions will exist for 2-8, 15-25 and frozen temperatures."

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted an opening for a Senior Account Manager Europe, to be based in Netherlands.

Microtek Laboratories Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, has introduced a new line of PCM-equipped pouches and panels for use in temperature-controlled shipping.

PCM briefing: Viking Cold is finalist for innovation award; Sonoco launches sustainable packaging initiative

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

Viking Cold Solutions is a finalist for an Energy Storage of North America Innovation Award. The behind-the-meter thermal energy storage systems up for the award are part of an Eversource demand management program in Massachusetts. 

A thermal storage project in Northamptonshire, England, is expected to provide 47 new homes with hot water and heat via renewable energy sources such as solar power. The borehole technology, developed by Caplin Solar of Leicester, stores heat in the ground in warmer months for later use in colder periods.

• Packaging giant Sonoco of Hartsville, S.C., has announced the creation of its EnviroSense sustainable packaging initiative. EnviroSense products are designed to incorporate a number of elements associated with more sustainable packaging, including optimized package-to-product ratio; increased use of recycled and recyclable content; fiber sourcing; compostability; and the use of bio-based materials.

• Registration is open for Sonoco ThermoSafe's next Leading Minds Seminar, "Collaborative Learning that FUELS Your Temperature Sensitive Healthcare Products," to be held Nov. 14 in Amsterdam. The seminar is designed for European supply chain, logistics, quality and packaging professionals responsible for the protection and management of temperature sensitive healthcare clinical supplies and finished products. 

Hydrostor, a Canadian developer of advanced compressed air energy storage projects, has announced the closing of $37 million (USD) in growth financing. Hydrostor has three projects in operation or under construction in Canada and Australia 

• A projected tripling of heat-related deaths in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years will require a drastic rethinking of ways to cool buildings, a parliamentary select committee warns. “The risk of overheating in terms of minimising risks to health and safety of occupants should be enshrined into regulations for new build homes and retrofits," the Environmental Audit Committee said. "This should be considered alongside an integrated review of energy efficiency and ventilation, and be included in the government’s planned Future Homes Standard, to include improvement in the measurement of current and future overheating risk and prioritise passive cooling measures.”

• The most entertaining obituary of a self-taught chemist you will read this month. Rest in peace, Joe Heller.

PCM briefing: ThermoSafe introduces new passive shipper; PCM-cooled rail containers hit market in China

Ben Welter - Saturday, August 24, 2019

ThermoSafe Pegasus ULD shipper• Sonoco ThermoSafe has announced the creation of a passive, temperature-controlled container that will be manufactured by AEROTUF of Charleston, S.C. The Pegasus ULD container will use AEROTUF’s patented AeroTHERM composite material technology, along with a gelled phase change material. "The Pegasus ULD will ultimately provide 2-8, CRT, and frozen temperature ranges depending on the PCM used for durations up to and exceeding five days," said Ben VanderPlas, manager of Engineering and Product Management at ThermoSafe, which is based in Arlington Heights, Ill. A launch date for the product has not been announced.

• The Chinese rail company that worked with the UK's University of Birmingham last year to develop a prototype of PCM-based freight container is bringing the concept to market. Hebei-based transport business CRRC Shijiazhuang sold 49 of the containers to a manufacturer in China this month. The low-emissions freight containers keep payloads cold without the need for fuel-generated refrigeration. "We are delighted to see our cold storage technologies start to make the commercial market," said Yulong Ding, director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage. "We are working with our partners to extend the cold storage technologies to more applications."

Lagunitas Phase Change ale• Here's a co-branding opportunity for a PCM manufacturer with a taste for hops: Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, Calif., has introduced Phase Change, "an unfiltered, wet-hop ale packed full of lupulin-drenched Simcoe, Citra & Mosaic hops." The brewer describes the beer as "somewhere between a solid and a liquid... a Phase Change of sorts."  

• More than 170 speakers are lined up for the 14th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29 in Bern, Switzerland. The Japanese architect and Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban will deliver the keynote address. Thomas Friedrich of Innogration GmbH, Germany, will discuss "collection of thermal energy from the façade" and "decentralized PCM storage elements for saving thermal energy." Damien Mathis of Ai Environnement, Paris, will give a presentation on the "thermal performance of engineered wood flooring impregnated with phase-change materials." The registration fee is 680 euros and includes the conference documentation as well as meals during both days. Participants who register by Aug. 30 will receive a 10 percent discount.

PCM briefing: Axiotherm wins 2 innovation awards; newly commissioned pilot power plant in Sweden uses SaltX TES

Ben Welter - Friday, July 05, 2019

ESDA-Axiotherm GmbH won two awards in this year's INNOspace Masters ideas competition. The competition, sponsored by the Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center, honors innovative ideas that address the challenges faced by the space industry. The winners were announced this week in Berlin. ESDA-Axiotherm won the overall prize for the development of a PCM polymer compound for the thermal stabilization of components and systems. The German company also won the OHB Challenge, which honors ready-to-use solutions.

Noor Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest single-site solar power project with an installed capacity of 1,177 MW, has been successfully commissioned. The project is a joint venture between the government of Abu Dhabi and a consortium comprising Marubeni Corp., Japan, and Jinko Solar Holding, China. Abu Dhabi says the project's 3.2 million solar  panels provide enough power for 90,000 people. 

• The Swedish power producer Vattenfall has commissioned an industrial-scale, 0.5 MW/10 MWh, pilot test facility at its Reuter power plant, employing thermal energy storage technology developed by SaltX of Sweden. The technology uses nano-coated salts to store thermal energy. 

Croda International Plc posted a product announcement on its LinkedIn page this week: "CrodaTherm can be incorporated into wearable and non-wearable textile fibres to improve temperature regulation." There's more information on crodatherm.com. According to the website, Croda has encapsulated its bio-based phase change material "in a durable acrylic polymer shell, so that when the bio-based core changes phase, the particle remains solid." I hope to have more details on the technology in time for next week's newsletter.

PCM briefing: Lineup set for TES forum in Duesseldorf; CIC Energigune joins European research network

Ben Welter - Friday, June 21, 2019

Christoph Rathgeber of ZAE Bayern and Michael Andretzky of the University of Duisburg-Essen are among the speakers at next week's Thermal Energy Storage Forum in Dusseldorf, Germany. The forum will focus on the use of thermal storage in industrial processes. Rathgeber's topic is "Economy of thermal energy storage." Andretzky's topic: "PCM in buffer tank for CHPs."

Crystallize bubble• Another frosty gem from Physics Today: "Bubbles freeze in a swirl of ice crystals"

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has launched an electric thermal energy storage system designed to store large quantities of energy cost-effectively. The pilot plant in Hamburg can store up to 130 MWh of thermal energy for a week. It uses a steam turbine to convert stored energy into electricity. 

CIC Energigune, a thermal energy storage research center in Spain's Basque Country, has joined the ALISTORE-ERI network. The European network brings together 20 research centers and 12 companies engaged in advanced energy storage research.

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston has made Food Logistics' list of Top Green Providers 2019. Viking was honored in two categories, refrigeration and alternative fuels &  energy. The company says its PCM-based thermal storage system, designed for use in cold storage facilities, can reduce energy consumption by more than 25 percent.

Cryopak, a maker of insulated shipping containers, gel packs and phase change materials, says it is taking steps toward reducing its carbon footprint with the launch of a new line of shipping solutions. The company, based in Edison, N.J. says its R3 Service Program "minimizes the need for insulation materials, phase change solutions, bottles and their necessary disposal by handling the coordination of container delivery, reverse logistics and required refurbishment."

Sonoco ThermoSafe has an opening for a sales manager with "experience in strategic selling across Europe."

PCM briefing: Building Skins conference agenda; tough words for CALMAC and Axiom Exergy

Ben Welter - Saturday, May 25, 2019

• The agenda is set for the 14th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29 in Bern, Switzerland. The Japanese architect and Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban will be the keynote speaker. Among the more than 150 speakers is Thomas Friedrich of Innogration GmbH, Germany, who will discuss "collection of thermal energy from the façade" and "decentralized PCM storage elements for saving thermal energy." The registration fee is 680 euros and includes the conference documentation as well as meals during both days. Participants who register by May 31 will receive a 20 percent discount.

Mike HopkinsIn a LinkedIn post, former Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins shared his take on two of the California company's competitors in distributed thermal energy storage. "Look at @CALMAC, a Portfolio of Trane - been in our industry forever, good product, but haven't been able to secure utility deals because their large bespoke systems make it too risky to commit to MWs in a location on a schedule," wrote Hopkins, who is now CEO at Bakken Midstream. "Relative newcomer [Axiom Exergy] came to market with their #refrigeration #battery. Good concept but not plug and play. Not surprising, they seem to have recast themselves as a #cloud based power management company."

• Speaking of CALMAC: CEO Mark McCracken will speak on "some of the myths surrounding ice-based TES" at an ASHRAE technical seminar on thermal energy storage in building design in Hong Kong June 13. 

FedEx Express has launched a temperature-controlled shipping solution in Japan, Korea and Singapore. The company says its Medpak VIºC packaging, first introduced in Europe, provides 96-hour temperature stability. The reusable thermal packaging features vacuum insulated panels and phase change material validated to International Safe Transit Association 7D standards.

CIC energiGUNE, a research center in Spain's Basque Country, has an opening for a researcher in its thermal energy storage area. The research will focus on the storage of heat through reversible chemical reactions "in a range of temperature few explored so far (120 - 250 °C)." The application deadline is Sept. 11, 2019.   

Barbara Pause of Textile Testing & Innovation will be among the speakers at this year's Advances in Thermal Management conference, to be held Aug. 7-8 in Denver, Colo. Her topic: "Measuring and Modeling the Thermal Performance of Products Equipped with Phase Change Materials." 

• Thermal energy storage startup NET Energy of Chicago is among 10 finalists for the University of Chicago’s 19th annual Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge. Winners will be announced next week, with the top companies sharing $250,000 in cash, along with $250,000 worth of office space and professional services from program sponsors. 

PCM briefing: Axiotherm wins smarter E Award; update on Malta thermal battery project

Ben Welter - Friday, May 17, 2019

Axiotherm GmbH of Germany was among the winners at this year's smarter E Awards in Munich. Axiotherm was honored in the renewable energy category for kraftBoxx, a thermal energy storage system that uses phase change technology for heating and hot water. The company says kraftBoxx has a higher energy storage capacity than conventional heat and cold storage systems. KraftBoxx is a joint development with Klara Energy and Tuxhorn within the scope of the PCM-based HeatSel product line marketed by Axiotherm. 

China says it will raise tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods June 1, including palmitic acid, stearic acid and their salts and esters. The move is response to the U.S. tariff hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that took effect on May 10.  

• In an interview with SolarPACES, Malta Inc. engineer Sebastian Freund provides an update on the Massachusetts company's plans to develop a standalone thermal storage battery using molten salts. “We plan to build a pilot plant with 10MW power and at least six hours of storage duration, depending on customer specifications,” Freund said. Malta hopes to attract enough investors over the next three years to complete an 80MWh thermal energy storage pilot.

PCM briefing: Ice Energy signs distribution deal; Bloom joins Sunamp as board chairman

Ben Welter - Monday, April 22, 2019

Ice Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif., has reached distribution agreements with four California companies to sell, install and maintain its ice-based thermal storage system, the Ice Bear 20. The companies are Correy Baker Heating and Air of Murrieta; Emery Mechanical Engineering of San Diego; H3 of Santa Barbara; and SunRize Mechanical of Temecula. “This distribution network will enable us to further expand our footprint in the residential market in Southern California,” said Marcel Christians, co-COO of Ice Energy.

Sonoco ThermoSafe and AirBridgeCargo Airlines have announced a global partnership agreement for the leasing of the PharmaPort 360 temperature-controlled shipping container. The agreement will enable pharmaceutical shippers to lease PharmaPort 360 containers directly from AirBridgeCargo.

Martin Bloom• Thermal battery maker Sunamp Ltd. of Scotland has appointed Martin Bloom as chairman of the board. Bloom, right, has extensive experience in high-growth technology and renewable energy companies, including Chinese solar company Renesola and Loughborough-based fuel cell specialist Intelligent Energy. Bloom succeeds Sunamp’s founding chairman, Bob Pettigrew, who oversaw its early growth.

Nominations are being accepted for the 2019 Poncelet Prize for Innovation in Microencapsulation, co-sponsored by Procter & Gamble and the Bioencapsulation Research Group. The award recognizes innovation in process design and modernization; development of new core and shell materials; innovation in characterization methods; or innovation in emerging fields of applications. The deadline for submitting nominations is May 31, 2019.

Peli BioThermal is rebranding its Chronos temperature-controlled shippers. CoolGuard PCM will replace Chronos Express, and CoolGuard Advance will replace Chronos Advance. The CoolGuard shippers will offer configurations with fewer components and additional temperature set points, such as 16º C.

• Registration is open for "Phase Change Material & Passive Cooling in Large Venues," a lunch-hour presentation by Henderson Engineers. The free event, sponsored by AIA Kansas City, will be held June 12 at the Center for Architecture & Design in Kansas City, Mo.

Axiotherm GmbH's kraftBoxx thermal energy storage system is a finalist for a Smarter E Award in the renewable energy category. KraftBoxx is a joint development with Klara Energy and Tuxhorn within the scope of the PCM-based HeatSel product line marketed by Axiotherm. Winners will be announced May 15 in Munich.

• PCM expert Harald Mehling's new book is available on Amazon: "Understanding the Basics of Energy: An Introduction from Simple to Complex Situations."

Tempur-Pedic of Lexington, Ky., says its new TEMPUR-breeze mattress will help sleepers "stay up to 8 degrees F cooler through the night." According to Tempur-Pedic: "At about 80°F, the molecules within TEMPUR-breeze’s most efficient Phase Change Material (PCM) to-date, PURECOOL+, activate, shifting from a solid to a liquid to absorb massive amounts of heat. For the first time, Tempur-Pedic’s scientists successfully altered these proprietary molecules to deliver more phase change material, increasing its capacity to absorb heat by 2x compared to other PCM."

• Two new ASHRAE publications will be available in June: "Owner’s Guide for Buildings Served by District Cooling" and an updated edition of the "District Cooling Guide" for designers and building owners around the world.

• Researchers at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a polyethylene glycol-infused wood material that could be used to make windows that absorb heat during the day and release it into the home at night. The researchers are working to increase the heat storage capacity of the transparent wood, Smithsonian.com reports.

PCM briefing: Energy Storage Europe includes sessions on thermal storage; C-Therm offers webinar on thermal performance of textiles

Ben Welter - Monday, March 04, 2019

• The Energy Storage Europe conference and trade fair, set for March 12-14 in Dusseldorf, Germany, includes a number of sessions on thermal energy storage: "Heat Storage - an essential contribution to energy transition," Oliver Baudson, TSK Flagsol Engineering GmbH; "Advanced Thermal Energy Storage Concepts," Dr. Robert Pitz-Paal, DLR Institute of Solar Research; "High Temperature Storage," Doron Brenmiller, Brenmiller Energy; "Material and Component Development for Thermal Energy Storage," Christoph Rathgeber, ZAE Bayern; and "Thermal Energy Storage for Cost-Effective Energy Management & CO2 Mitigation," Dr. Dan Bauer, German Aerospace Center - DLR e.V.

• The deadline for submitting paper proposals for next fall's Advanced Building Skins conference in Bern, Switzerland, is March 10. The list of topics includes thermal performance of phase change materials.

• Thermal battery maker Sunamp Ltd.'s collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry won the "Powerful Partnership" award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019 last month. The organizations began work on the development of new phase change materials in 2010. 

• Croda International Plc has been recognized for its commitment to "a deforestation-free supply chain." Croda earned an A- in that category in CDP's climate change report for 2018, up from a B the previous year. The specialty chemical company says it has a special focus on palm oil and is committed to supplying RSPO-certified palm oil derivatives. 

• Thermal instrumentation maker C-Therm Technologies Ltd. is hosting a free webinar this week, "Quantifying Thermal Performance of Textiles (Warm Feel / Cool Touch)." The webinar, aimed at "anyone working in the product performance testing of textiles and fabrics where temperature regulation is an important function," will be held at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday.

PCM mats helped lift Virginia Tech to first place in Solar Decathlon

Ben Welter - Monday, February 18, 2019

FutureHAUS, front elevation

The Virginia Tech team that won first place in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East credits a good share of its success to the deft use of phase change material donated by Insolcorp LLC of New London, N.C.

FutureHAUS, the lone U.S. entry, topped 13 other finalists and more than 60 total entrants in the competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Electricity & Water Authority. Australia's University of Wollongong finished second. The finals took place in November in the desert heat of Dubai.

Insolcorp donated 400 square feet of two types of Infinite R PCM mats. Both are salt hydrates, one with a melt point of 21 degrees Celsius, the other a melt point of 22 degrees C. The phase change material acts as a thermal battery, absorbing and releasing thermal energy as it solidifies and melts.

The Virginia Tech team deployed the mats in the plenum of its 900-square-foot solar-powered house. The PCM allowed the team to take advantage of a rule that limited the use of solar energy to 8kw at any one time, with one exception: Unlimited use of solar energy for air conditioning was allowed during daily inspection periods to assure visitor comfort. The PCM mats, solidified during those periods, helped keep the house comfortable at other times. That helped the FutureHAUS achieve the highest score in net energy use, a key metric in the competition.

Joseph Wheeler, AIA"Every team struggled with the 8kw limit," said Joseph Wheeler, right, lead faculty on FutureHAUS and co-director of Virginia Tech's Center for Design Research. "Typically, during peak energy, you would be generating lots and lots of power, which you could easily charge your batteries with, which you could easily run all your tasks, and you could feed the grid, and build up quite a bit of surplus so that you would remain energy positive throughout the two weeks of competition.

"But, since they limited inverter use at any one time to 8kw, it really put a limit to what our energy budget was. We saw phase change as batteries. A massive ton of batteries. ... It's more of a strategy for a competition than it is for a realized situation. But in a realized situation, we know the value of the PCM. Heat energy, cost of power being cheaper at night than during the day where you can charge your systems and load shift. Practically, PCMs make a lot of sense. And we wanted to have the PCMs in this house for practical reasons, not just for competition reasons. ...

"In simple terms, we eased the demand for the HVAC every afternoon. It was the hottest time of the day and it was also the time when we were getting less power from the solar panels because the sun was moving down. It was a critical time because we knew that once the sun went down, we had to survive on battery. And we had a limit. They limited every house to 15kw of battery."

FutureHAUS, kitchenThe FutureHAUS team finished in the top three in eight of the competition's 10 categories: first place in Architecture, House Functioning and Sustainable Transportation; second place in Sustainability and Innovation; and third place in Engineering/Construction, Energy Efficiency and Comfort Conditions.

The FutureHAUS entry was a two-year university-wide effort. More than 100 Virginia Tech students helped design and build the structure, with help from faculty members in architecture, urban studies, science, engineering and other departments.

The house consists of 18 modular  "cartridges" built inside a Virginia Tech research facility. It was first assembled on campus in Blacksburg, Va., last summer. After testing, it was disassembled, shipped to Dubai and then reassembled at the competition site in just two days. It has since been shipped back to Blacksburg, where it will undergo testing to measure its various energy-saving components.

"We now have a system in place where we can collect data and can truly test the performance," Wheeler said. "We know the PCM worked for us during the competition because we did have some temperature sensors in the ceiling. And so we were able to prove that we were reaching the pre-state when those PCMs were being charged. But we really want to collect a lot more data and look at it in real-world situations."