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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 heat-recycling system keeps tugboats ready for action

Ben Welter - Friday, January 19, 2018

ZP Bison

Tugboats are the tireless workhorses of the world’s rivers and harbors. These powerful watercraft must remain on standby for long periods, ready to assist other vessels at a moment’s notice. The energy required to keep the engines warm and the cabin comfortable in cold climates is usually derived from electrical shore power. That’s expensive and inefficient.

Kotug International BV has developed an on-board system that captures heat produced by the engines and stores it in a tank that contains phase change material. The Dutch company installed the heat recycling system on one of its tugboats, the ZP Bison, in 2016. The result: Shore power consumption has been cut in half on the Hamburg-based tugboat.

Koos Smoor, manager for fleet performance and innovation at Kotug, oversaw development of the system, which won the Maritime Innovation Award 2017 in November.

“The use of PCM technology is new in the maritime industry and has great potential not only for tugboats, but for every type of vessel, as it can be tailored to different spaces and user profiles,” Smoor said. “Kotug is looking into more applications for temperature control purposes.”

Smoor answered a few PCM-related questions by e-mail:

Q: When did Kotug begin developing the heat recycling system?

A: “Two years ago we tested heat storage on our hybrid tugs to reduce the ‘hotel load’ during standby. The hotel load is the generator load in kilowatts when the tug is not working. It is mainly heating or cooling and pre-heating of the main engines.”

Q: What type of PCM is used in the system (salt hydrate, paraffin, biobased)?

A: “We are still testing multiple PCM materials.”

Q: What is the PCM's peak melting point?

A: “85 degrees is the 'coolwater' temperature of the engines. The coolwater of the main propulsion engines is used to heat up the PCM buffer. We also did test to use heat from the exhaust gasses to heat up the PCM buffer. However that is more complicated, and we stopped with that.”

Q: What is the PCM's heat capacity?

A: “The heat capacity is 73 Kwhr/m3.”

PCM tank in ZP Bison engine roomQ: How is the PCM tank configured, what are its dimensions, how much PCM is used? 

A: “The PCM tank [shown at right] is approximately 2 cubic meters. The PCM is warmed up by the coolwater of the engines. We like to keep the heat exchanger in the buffer for ourselves as we are working on a patent.”

Q: Who is the PCM manufacturer?

A: “The PCM material is manufactured in China.”

Q: How many tugboats are in Kotug's fleet?

A: “Worldwide Kotug and its joint ventures consist of approximately 120 tugboats.”

Q: Are there plans to install the heat recycling system in other Kotug vessels?

A: “Yes, we are looking into more installations on more tugboats. The installation can be done during the five-year maintenance period cycle of the tugboat. Note: Many tugs operate in the tropics where there is no need to preheat the engines. On these tugs there is no application for PCM materials.”

Q: Are there plans to license the technology for use by other towage operators?

A: “We are still looking into this.”

PCM briefing: Cleanergy to develop solar TES in Morocco; SpaceX has opening for a thermal engineer

Ben Welter - Friday, January 12, 2018

Cleanergy AB of Sweden and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy have agreed on a framework to jointly develop a thermal energy storage system using Cleanergy's Stirling-based solar electricity technology.

• Applications are being accepted for the World Materials Forum Startup Challenge. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for the competition, which recognizes technical or organizational breakthroughs in one of five categories, including materials composition, product design and 3D manufacturing. The winning company will receive a 50,000 euro award at the World Materials Forum in June in Nancy, France.

Grace Hsia, co-founder and CEO of Warmilu LLC, is among 14 entrepreneurs in the running for the $1 million top prize in the WeWork Creator Awards Global competition. The winner will be announced in New York City on Jan. 17.

• Prize money totaling 52,500 euros, financed by Germany's National Climate Initiative, is up for grabs in the German Refrigeration Prize 2018 competition, honoring innovations in air conditioning and refrigeration. The entry deadline is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced at the Berlin Energy Days conference in May.

SpaceX is seeking candidates for the position of thermal engineer.  

Pacific Gas & Electric will introduce a new electric time-of-use rate in April. The California utility says the optional rate will make energy use more efficient and minimize peak demand challenges. The peak pricing will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bain & Co. has analyzed how chemical companies can "demystify" the R&D process. Among the three common "failure modes" Bain identified: "strong team running in too many directions."

Buro Happold associate Mark Dawson will speak on the topic of "phase change materials for ultimate thermal efficiency" at the 2018 Materials for Architecture conference in London in April.

PCM briefing: USC develops PCM for satellites; Axiom Exergy posts opening for product engineer intern

Ben Welter - Monday, January 08, 2018

• Engineers at the University of Southern California and Northrop Grumman have developed a phase change material designed to control temperature swings that can disrupt the performance of satellites. A hybrid structure of silicon and vanadium dioxide works like textured skin to better control the radiation from the body of the satellite.

Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., is seeking a product engineering intern. It's a three-month position with the possibility of transitioning to full-time employment. Applicants are asked to answer this bonus question: "Given the choice between pure water and a NaCl-water solution as the thermal energy storage medium in medium temperature (40°F, 4.4°C) refrigeration applications, what are the pros and cons of each material?"

BioPCM image from Craigslist ad• Spotted on Craigslist: 3,000 square feet of BioPCM M27 and M51 for sale in San Diego. The seller, a building contractor, is asking for $1 per square foot. In a response to an email seeking more details, he described the material as "new in its original packaging" and wrote: "Make me an offer."

• U.K.-based Sure Chill, whose water-based refrigeration technology is used to keep vaccines cool without the need for grid-based electricity, has been long-listed for a 2018 Ashden Award in the Sustainable Energy and Health category.  

Pelican BioThermal has appointed Dominic Hyde as vice president of Crēdo on Demand.

Bio Gemüse Wagner, reported to be Germany's largest organic greenhouse, opened last month in Mühlingen. A 3,000-cubic-meter water tank is used as a thermal battery, storing heat supplied by a nearby biogas installation.

• New from Transparency Market Research: "1-Tetradecanol Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 - 2024"

• New from Absolute Reports: "Europe And Regional Bio-Based Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales and Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023" and "North America and Regional Inorganic Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales And Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023"

• "Caesar’s Last Breath," a new book by Sam Kean, details Albert Einstein's surprising passion project: a safer (but ultimately impractical) refrigerator.

PCM briefing: GE ice storage project wins $221,000 grant; IFAI offers webinar on smart fabrics

Ben Welter - Friday, December 15, 2017

• A plan to install an ice storage system at GE’s new headquarters in Boston has been awarded a $221,000 grant by Massachusetts' Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage program. 

• The U.S. Department of Energy has announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of ARPA‑E's latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN 2018 is looking for innovations "to transform the way we generate, store and use energy." The deadline for submitting a concept paper is Feb. 12, 2018.

• Early registration prices for the 2018 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit have been extended to Dec. 31. The summit, which showcases innovative energy technologies, will be held March 13-15 at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, D.C. The agenda is still "coming soon." The deadline to submit an application to exhibit in the Technology Showcase is Jan. 2.

• Registration is open for an Industrial Fabrics Association International webinar on recent smart fabric applications used in a number of government, commercial, medical and consumer market segments. The cost for the Jan. 17 webinar is $29 for association members, $79 for non-members.

• Registration is open for the 34th Space Symposium, to be held April 16-19, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Exhibitors include Advanced Cooling Technologies and Aavid Thermacore Inc.

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins has accepted an invitation to become a member of the Committee for Economic Development of the Conference Board. The CED is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization founded in 1942.

• In an interview with Forbes, co-CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell explain Sasol's $11 billion bet on specialty chemicals.

• Registration is open for "Single-Use vs. Reusable Packaging: Providing value for your product," the next webinar in Sonoco ThermoSafe's temperature assurance packaging series. Chris Anderson, director of quality systems at Cardinal Health, and Vishal Khushalani, director of marketing and business development at Sonoco ThermoSafe, will lead the one-hour class, to be held Jan 9.

• The BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, to be held in Philadelphia July 16-19, 2018, is seeking proposals for company and technical presentations. Presentations are 13 minutes long, including a brief introduction and Q&A with the audience. Proposals must be submitted by May 14.

PCM briefing: A call for papers on advanced building skins; a new factory for 1414 Degrees in Australia

Ben Welter - Tuesday, December 05, 2017

• A call for papers has been issued for the International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 1-2, 2018, in Bern, Switzerland. Among the topics: "Thermal performance of phase change materials for the building skin," "Models, tools and simulations for sustainable buildings" and "Cost engineering and life cycle cost analysis." The deadline for proposals is Feb. 15, 2018.  

1414 Degrees of Australia has moved into a 3,000-square-meter factory on the site of the former Mitsubishi engine plant near Adelaide, where it will build its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system. The company also plans to build two grid-scale silicon-based thermal energy storage systems in South Australia. 

ZAE-Bayern among more than 80 exhibitors scheduled to attend the 2018 Energy Storage Europe in Dusseldorf, Germany, March 13-15. 

• New from QYResearch Group: "Global Smart Fabrics and Textiles Market Research Report 2017"

• The U.S. Department of Energy plans to request $99 million in fiscal year 2018 to support Energy Frontier Research Centers, which work to advance breakthroughs in materials sciences, chemical sciences, geosciences and biosciences.

Glaciem Cooling Technologies of Australia won the "Applied Innovation" award at the inaugural Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards last month. Glaciem's ThermCOLD system uses a salt-based phase change material to store thermal energy, allowing refrigeration plants to run and store energy during off-peak periods, when electricity rates are lower, and then release energy during peak periods.   

Sonoco President and CEO Jack Sanders will retire in April, following a 30-year career with the packaging company. Chief Operating Officer Robert C. Tiede will replace Sanders as CEO.

• Singapore-based agribusiness giant Wilmar International has entered into an agreement to purchase Cargill's palm oil refinery and neighboring storage facility in Kuantan, Malaysia.

• The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is seeking to hire a research associate for a seasonal thermal energy storage project. Responsibilities will include numerical and experimental investigation of the storage system in combination with phase change materials.

PCM briefing: Thermal storage capacity on the rise; clinical trial for prosthetics liner

Ben Welter - Friday, October 27, 2017

• Thermal energy storage exceeds the capacity of battery storage now in operation, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency. Greentech Media reports that a recent resurgence in concentrated solar power development promises to increase that advantage.

• New from QYResearch Group: "Global Thermal Energy Storage Market Size, Status and Forecast 2022"

• New from Persistence Market Research: "Advanced Phase Change Material (PCM) Market - Global Industry Analysis and Forecast to 2020"

Alpha SmartTemp liner• The effectiveness of a PCM-infused prosthetics liner made by Ohio Willow Wood Co. will be put to the test in a two-year clinical trial. The liner is designed to absorb heat and reduce sweating where a prosthesis meets skin. The study, funded by a $140,000 Department of Defense grant, will be conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Widener University.

• Registration is open for "2-8°C Solutions: Design variables and constraints," the next webinar in Sonoco ThermoSafe's temperature assurance packaging series. Frank Butch, director of engineering at Sonoco ThermoSafe, and Lisa Barbieri Moher, North American head of distribution packaging and graphics at Sanofi, will lead the one-hour class, to be held Nov. 14.

Sonoco ThermoSafe's development of the LD7 Quarter PMC pallet shipper won first place for Excellence in Collaboration at the Cold Chain GDP & Temperature Management Global Forum in Chicago last month. ThermoSafe's ChillTech reusable PCM system was runner-up in the Excellence in Technological Innovation category.

In a recent interview with Innovation in Textiles, CEO Dirk Van Hyning of PCM-maker Alexium International discussed U.S. efforts to curb the use of halogenated flame retardants.

PCM briefing: SaltX Technology wins Swedish prize; Axiom has opening for field engineer

Ben Welter - Monday, October 23, 2017

• SaltX Technology has been awarded Sweden's E-Prize, presented by European energy company E.ON and Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer. SaltX won the category “Renewable Energy” as well as the “People’s Award.” SaltX's nano-coated salt energy storage technology is used in EnerStore, the company's large-scale energy storage system for heat and power generation.

Brooks Danahy, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is one of 13 University of Kansas students to receive a $1,000 Undergraduate Research Award. His project: "Characterization of Melting Point Depression and Phase Change Behavior in Ionic Liquid + Compressed Gas Systems.”

• California startup Axiom Exergy, maker of a "Refrigeration Battery" designed to reduce supermarket energy costs, has posted an opening for a field engineer

• Registration is open for a SpecialChem online course, "Essential Concepts for Optimal Compounding," to be held on Nov. 2. The cost for three attendees on one connection is 300 euros.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson got a virtual peek inside X, the secretive lab where Google's parent company is researching advanced technology. Current projects include salt-based thermal storage, which X believes could become the cheapest grid-scale storage technology in the world. 

• A ceramic-based mechanical pump developed at Georgia Tech is able to operate at record temperatures of more than 1,400º Celsius, expanding the range of materials that can be used in high-temperature thermal storage systems. “The hotter we can operate, the more efficiently we can store and utilize thermal energy," said Asegun Henry, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. "This work will provide a step change in the infrastructure because now we can use some of the highest-temperature materials to transfer heat. These materials are also the hardest materials on Earth.” 

Schneider Electric of Andover, Mass., says augmented reality and mixed reality training regimens will become increasingly important at chemical plants as advances occur in both hardware and software. 

PCM briefing: Can a cat be both a solid and a liquid?

Ben Welter - Monday, September 25, 2017

• Alas, no chemistry prize was handed out at the Ig Noble awards ceremony at Harvard University earlier this month. The annual "Igs," first awarded in 1991, are designed to recognize research efforts that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." This year's physics prize was awarded to Marc-Antoine Fardin, a physicist at Paris Diderot University, for using fluid dynamics to probe the question "Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?" His conclusion: Yes.

• The World Wildlife Fund has partnered with the American Chemistry Council, Recycling PartnershipOcean Conservancy, Target, Nestle and other organizations to find opportunity and economic value in expanding the availability and use of secondary material. Members of the initiative, known as the Cascading Materials Vision, introduced the concept of "cascading value" in two sessions at this week's Verge Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

• New from COMSOL: Modeling a novel PCM-enhanced plaster with numerical simulation 

• New from QY Research: "2017 Market Research Report on Global Energy Storage Devices Industry"

PCM briefing: Inventory reset rule takes effect; va-Q-tec reports strong first half

Ben Welter - Monday, August 28, 2017

• Thermal energy storage, a proven technology for years in Europe, is now a "budding HVAC option" in the United States, ACHR News reports. “In many ways, applications haven’t changed,” said Steve Benz, a 35-year veteran of the thermal storage industry and Evapco’s director of global thermal storage and district energy. “What has changed is related to the electric market — with an emphasis today on sustainable energy production and electricity storage."

Jane Chen• In an appearance at Stanford School of Engineering, Embrace founder Jane Chen, right, talked about the challenges she faced in developing and expanding the use of the PCM-based infant warming blanket. "You will inevitably fail," she said, "and you need to have the courage and the persistence to get back out there, learn from your mistakes, and try again."

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published the final TSCA inventory reset rule. The rule, which is effective immediately, creates new reporting obligations for companies that manufacture or import chemical products.

Va-Q-tec AG is reporting a strong first half of the year, with revenue 44 percent higher than the same period last year. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, develops, manufactures and sells vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials. 

• Monday, Aug. 28, is the deadline for submitting entries in Bio-Based World News' bio-based innovation competition for the Americas. The two categories are product of the year and chemical innovation of the year. The awards will be presented at the Bio-Based Live conference in San Diego Sept. 25-26. 

Singapore's "Grid 2.0" may include district cooling systems that incorporate phase change materials. 

Sonoco ThermoSafe has an opening for product manager in Arlington Heights, Ill. 

• New from Market Research Future: "Global Thermal Energy Storage Market Research Report - Forecast to 2022"

SaltX Technology of Sweden and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd of China have reached an agreement to jointly develop and commercialize a "groundbreaking solution" for wind power with integrated energy storage.  

PCM briefing: A baby manikin that sweats; a salt and antifreeze TES system

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 03, 2017

Alphabet Inc.'s secretive development lab is developing a system for storing renewable energy in tanks filled with salt and antifreeze. "The system takes in energy in the form of electricity and turns it into separate streams of hot and cold air," Bloomberg reports. "The hot air heats up the salt, while the cold air cools the antifreeze, a bit like a refrigerator. ... Flip a switch and the process reverses. Hot and cold air rush toward each other, creating powerful gusts that spin a turbine and spit out electricity when the grid needs it. Salt maintains its temperature well, so the system can store energy for many hours, and even days, depending on how much you insulate the tanks."

Thermetrics baby manikinThermetrics LLC has introduced an 11-zone thermal baby manikin that features a thermally conductive carbon-epoxy shell, a “sweating skin system” and internal heater elements and temperature sensors. Nicknamed “Ruth,” the manikin can be used to evaluate the thermal properties of clothing, diapers, bedding, car seats and strollers.

Axiom Exergy and Ice Energy are on a list of 25 companies notable for developing innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption in commercial and industrial buildings.  

Croda International has announced the acquisition of Enza Biotech AB, a research enterprise established as a spin-out company from Lund University in Sweden.

AkzoNobel has announced the winners of its 2017 Imagine Chemistry initiative, recognizing and supporting efforts to help solve real-life chemistry-related challenges and to uncover sustainable opportunities for the company’s specialty chemicals business. Among the winners is Industrial Microbes of Emeryville, Calif., for its work on the biocatalysis of ethylene to ethylene oxide.

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins and Magnum CAES CEO Richard Walje will be among the speakers at the Energy Storage North America conference in San Diego next week. 

ONE Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., has selected Acme Aerospace to provide lithium ion battery systems to be used in ONE’s “Project Canada” aircraft. The Acme system features a proprietary phase change material to improve battery performance.

Reuters reports that Dow Chemical and DuPont are seeing increased benefits in developing sustainable "green" products, as the chemical giants seek new areas of growth and build a stronger connection with millennials.

TemperPack, a Virginia-based manufacturer of sustainable packaging for perishable goods, has raised $10 million in an investment round that will help it further expand operations and add jobs.

Digital strategies “will have a significant impact on many areas of the chemical industry, with the potential to change value chains, lead to higher productivity and more innovation, and create new channels to market,” according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis.

• The Bioencapsulation Research Group has posted the program for the 3rd Latin-America Symposium on Microencapsulation, to be held in Chile Nov. 27-29.

1414 Degrees, the Australian startup that has developed a way to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon, has posted openings for a chief financial officer and an energy storage and power network system analyst.

• New from QY Research: "Global Inorganic Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Market Research Report 2017"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Energy Harvesting Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2014 - 2020" and "Chilled Water Storage System Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 – 2016 and Opportunity Assessment; 2017 – 2027"

ThermoSafe ChillTechSonoco ThermoSafe has launched a new range of reusable, universal solutions for the pharmaceutical and biologics markets. ChillTech is a pre-qualified range of 2°C to 8°C PCM systems providing temperature control from two days up to six days for payloads from 4L to 40L. The range uses Laminar Medica’s ChillPhase paraffin phase change material.

• A new reference manual for the oleochemical industry is now available. "Fatty Acids: Chemistry, Synthesis, and Applications" presents new information on industrially important fatty acids including detailed descriptions of fatty acid crystallization, enzymatic synthesis and microbial production.

Pluss Advanced Technologies has received a 50 lakh grant (about $78,000 USD) under India’s Millennium Alliance Program to promote the use of the company’s MiraCradle cooling device in hospitals and neonatal care units across India. The device uses phase change material to treat birth asphyxia in newborns. 

• Why haven't phase change materials taken off in the UK construction industry? Ian Biggin of Phase Energy Ltd., which is developing novel shape-stabilized technologies, says the industry needs to address what he calls the "4Ps": price, performance, proof and promotion.