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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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Alexium says it's working to establish wide acceptance of new testing protocol

Ben Welter - Friday, June 08, 2018

Alexium International Group Ltd. announced in April that it had developed an "innovative thermal analytical testing methodology" to measure the cooling capacity of PCM-enhanced products used in pillows, sheets and mattresses.

Alexium interim CEO Robert BrookinsAlexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments. Dr. Robert Brookins, Alexium’s executive vice president of research and development and newly appointed interim CEO, responded to questions about the new protocol this week.

Q: Your company's news release (https://alexiuminternational.com/8401-2/) says the protocol allows for "facile adoption by the industry." Is a detailed description of the protocol publicly available, so that results can be replicated and a new industry standard established? 

A: "At this point, the protocol has been openly shared with people in the industry, and Alexium has educated them on how to use this method. This work has been in conjunction with our customers. For more general usage, Alexium is working to introduce this as a formal test method through a standards organization."

Q: What retail pillows were evaluated (by type, if not by brand)? Do they contain microencapsulated phase change materials? 

A: "All of the pillows were purchased from general retail stores and were all based on the application of the PCM to a textile component. Based on the marketing included with the pillows and the apparent method of application, microencapsulated phase change materials were used on all of these. To clarify, none of the products specifically stated that PCMs were used."

Q: What is the MPCM load in each of the four Alexium-treated pillows shown in the chart? 

A: "We supply the analytical data as a testament to performance, but do not provide public information about the specific MPCM loading for products treated with our products."

Q: Are the four Alexium-treated pillows commercially available, as tested?

A: "These products represent four models that have gone into full production for commercialization by our customers."

Q: How do the results you obtained compare to other known methods used for quantifying cooling capacity, such as ASTM Standard D7984?

A: "We have used D7984 to test fabrics treated with different levels of PCM and found that MTPS provides no meaningful data. For this reason, Alexium undertook the work to develop this new test method. Based on our research, ASTM D7984 is effective for thermal effusivity and by our assessment provides insight related to sensible heat transfer; however, due to the test protocol for D7984, the thermal properties due to latent heat (i.e., PCM) are not effectively tested by that method. For our work, established DSC protocols were used as the starting place for the new method, because DSC has proven very effective at studying PCM-based materials."

Q: Do you use the DSC to measure the treated fabric’s thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity, so you can calculate the thermal effusivity?

A: "Our method is used to measure the latent heat absorbed by the PCM-treated fabric. This is important because this is the basis of the cooling effects provided by the PCM. The critical advance made with this test method is adapting established DSC methods so that they can be used reliably with PCM-treated textiles. We believe that building on an established test method is critical for the wide spread acceptance of this method."

Alexium International CEO Dirk Van Hyning resigns

Ben Welter - Friday, June 01, 2018

Alexium International Group Ltd. said its chief executive officer, Dirk Van Hyning, resigned this week for personal reasons. He was appointed CEO in June 2017.

Robert Brookins, Alexium’s executive vice president of research and development, has been appointed interim CEO. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

In April, Alexium announced that it had developed an "innovative thermal analytical testing methodology" to measure the cooling capacity of PCM-enhanced products used on pillows, sheets and mattresses.

In an April 23 news release, the company said:

"Alexium developed a testing protocol using a standard industry tool to quantify the cooling capacity, or enthalpic cooling, of PCM products when applied to pillows and other bedding fabrics. As a result, using this testing protocol, pillows treated with Alexium’s Alexicool PCM solution were shown to deliver over 500% greater cooling capacity than commercially available pillows treated with other PCM products.

"Testing was conducted on microencapsulated octadecane-based PCM in a controlled lab environment using a differential scanning calorimetry method developed by Alexium scientists with a TA Instrument DSC 250. The method was developed to be applicable across a wide range of fiber composition, fabric construction, and types of PCM." 

Alexium said the protocol allows for "facile adoption by the industry." But the company has not responded to questions about whether a detailed description of the protocol would be made public so that results can be replicated and a new industry standard established. It is not clear how the protocol compares to other known methods used for quantifying cooling capacity, such as ASTM Standard D7984.

Patent application: Cooling pillow with phase change material

Ben Welter - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Werner cooling pillow patent drawingU.S. patent application 20180140116 (applicant Marc L. Werner, Plantation, Fla.):

"A cooling pillow generates a gust of cooled air when compressed. A solid, resilient, compressible foam block forms a core of the cooling pillow. A phase change material layer adhered to a surface of the foam block. Holes can be formed in the foam block to enhance the feel of the pillow and to improve the speed at which air is displaced when the cooling pillow is compressed."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180140116.pdf

PCM briefing: Texas undergrads win ASHRAE equipment grant; 1414 Degrees among exhibitors at Australia energy storage conference

Ben Welter - Monday, May 21, 2018

• A University of North Texas research project, “Design of Energy Recovery Heat Exchanger Coupled with Phase Change Materials for Building Temperature Control,” is one of 25 undergraduate projects awarded a 2018 equipment grant from ASHRAE. The grants, totaling more than $113,000, will help the winning students complete undergraduate projects at schools around the world.

• New from HTF Market Intelligence: "United States Cold Chain Equipments Market Report 2018"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Salt Hydrate Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 - 2016 and Opportunity Assessment; 2017-2027"

• New from QY Research: "Global Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Industry 2018 Market Research Report"

CouchBed

• The retail market is full of PCM-topped mattresses, pillows and seat cushions. Here's the first fold-out couch we've seen that features the temperature-control technology. The CouchBed, made by an Arizona company, is a 10-inch memory foam mattress that’s “made with 100% CertiPur certified ultra-dense memory foam, combined with phase change material to actively cool the sleeping surface."

• The U.S. Department of Energy has announced $72 million for new projects to advance high-temperature concentrating solar power technologies. The high-temperature thermal storage systems targeted by this program seek to achieve at least 700 degrees C, which would boost the efficiency and lower the cost of electricity. Awardees include Brayton Energy, Hampton, N.H, $7.6 million; National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., $7 million; and Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., $9.5 million.

• Under a new joint development agreement, the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy will join Cleanergy AB's board of directors and help the Swedish firm advance its concentrated solar power and storage technology. The agency will fund a “substantial part” of Cleanergy's research and development work on thermal energy storage. Cleanergy, in turn, will be able to test its technology using the agency's facility in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

• A Ph.D. candidate at Delft University of Technology outlines a strategy to maximize the potential of aquifer thermal energy storage and phase out the use of natural gas in the Netherlands.

• Thermal energy storage company 1414 Degrees will be among more than 60 companies from around the world scheduled to attend the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition May 23-24 at the Adelaide Convention Center. Other exhibitors include Tesla, Toshiba, GE and Victron Energy.

Research roundup: Cold chain insulated container; convective heat transfer; new form-stable composite; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, December 14, 2017

Improving Performance of Cold-Chain Insulated Container with Phase Change Material: An Experimental Investigation [Applied Sciences]

Energy Storage in a Complex Heat Storage Unit Using Commercial Grade Phase Change Materials: Effect of Convective Heat Transfer Boundary Conditions [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Porosity and density measurements of sodium acetate trihydrate for thermal energy storage [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Melting and solidification behaviour of phase change materials with cyclic heating and cooling [Journal of Energy Storage]

Thermal performance enhancement of composite phase change materials (PCM) using graphene and carbon nanotubes as additives for the potential application in lithium-ion power battery [International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer]

A novel form-stable phase change composite with excellent thermal and electrical conductivities [Chemical Engineering Journal]

Influence of PCM design parameters on thermal and optical performance of multi-layer glazed roof [Applied Energy]

A Novel Phase Change Based Cooling System for Prismatic Lithium Ion Batteries [International Journal of Refrigeration]

Facile method of fabricating microencapsulated phase change materials with compact bonding polymer–silica hybrid shell using TEOS/MPS [Thermochimica Acta]

PCM briefing: Active vs. passive shipping solutions; registration open for Energy Innovation Summit

Ben Welter - Monday, November 20, 2017

• Registration is open for "Active vs. Passive Solutions: Which one is for me?" the next webinar in Sonoco ThermoSafe's temperature assurance packaging series. Ben Vanderplas, global product manager at Sonoco ThermoSafe, and David Bang, CEO of DHL LifeConEx, will lead the one-hour class, to be held Dec. 12.

Brooklyn Bedding's new Aurora mattress collection features TitanCool technology, "a phase change surface infusion" with "high conductivity properties."

• New from Transparency Market Research: "Thermal Management Technologies Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2017 - 2027"

The UV-activated thermal energy storage material shows the rapid crystallization and heat discharge upon visible light (blue LED) illumination. (Grossman Group at MIT)MIT researchers have combined conventional phase change material with an organic compound that responds to a pulse of light. "The new system," MIT News reports, "uses molecular switches that change shape in response to light; when integrated into the PCM, the phase-change temperature of the hybrid material can be adjusted with light, allowing the thermal energy of the phase change to be maintained even well below the melting point of the original material." The system could be used in a thermal battery to store heat from the sun or any other source and release the heat when needed.

• Registration for the 2018 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit is open. The event, to be held March 13-15 at the Gaylord Convention Center, outside Washington, D.C., showcases emerging energy technologies. No agenda yet.

• Researchers at the University of Maryland College Park have developed a method of fabricating fibers with boron nitride and polyvinyl alcohol using 3D print technologies which allows heat to be transferred away from the body.  Clothes made with the nanocomposite thread could help keep wearers cool in hot conditions.

Stanford University researchers have developed a reversible fabric that keeps skin a comfortable temperature whatever the weather. "On one side," Stanford News reports, "a copper coating traps heat between a polyethylene layer and the skin; on the other, a carbon coating releases heat under another layer of polyethylene." The fabric can either warm or cool the wearer, depending which side faces out.

PCM briefing: Energy storage tax incentive advances in U.S. Senate; how to make your startup pitch shine

Ben Welter - Monday, October 09, 2017

• A bill that would create a tax credit for the purchase of energy storage systems, including thermal systems, is advancing in the U.S. Senate. The bill, known as the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2017, is sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).  The bill was first floated last year and gained support from both Democrat and Republican senators, Energy Storage News reports.

Bloomberg BNA News reports that states could soon respond quicker to chemical accidents armed with information on file at the Environmental Protection Agency has. But first, they’ll have to prove they can protect chemical manufacturers' trade secrets.

• Looking to pitch your next big idea? David Beckett, an Amsterdam-based Brit who has coach more than 500 startups, has a few tips for you. No. 1: Memorize the first 60 seconds of your pitch. That'll keep you on track until that mind-numbing adrenaline wears off.  

Simba Hybrid pillow• The Simba Hybrid, the latest high-tech pillow to feature Outlast phase change material, hit stores last week. The price tag: $125. 

• Bedding foam producers are stepping up their research-and-development efforts and rolling out PU foams with improved performance, BedTimes Magazine reports. Temperature regulation remains among the most sought-after features among consumers, according to research conducted by FXI, a PU foam specialist based in Media, Penn.

Peli BioThermal has announced the expansion of its European manufacturing capabilities in France to produce CoolPall Vertos, the cold chain company's single-use bulk thermal shipper. 

• U.K.-based Softbox Systems has launched AEON, a line of reusable temperature-control parcel shippers that feature vacuum insulation panels and phase-change modules. Initially, AEON will be sold in three payload sizes for 2º C to 8º C temperature control. Other temperature ranges (15⁰ C to 25⁰ C and -20⁰ C) will be launched in December. 

Patent application: Temperature regulating polyurethane gels

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 03, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170210961 (applicant Technogel Italia, Vicenza, Italy): 

"A method for the production of a temperature regulating polyurethane gel composition and corresponding articles includes fatty acid esters as a phase change material (PCM) directly incorporated in the fluid phase of a polyurethane gel without encapsulation. The liquid or melted PCM is solved in the polyol component of the gel and is able to crystallize and melt within the gel structure reversibly. The polyurethane gels are under-crosslinked and include at least nominal three functional ethylene oxide-comprising alkylene oxide polyether polyol with 0 to 40% EO and an isocyanate with an effective functionality of from 1.5 to 3.5. The gels are useful in articles where the gel can be positioned close to the human body for temperature regulating purposes, and especially to improve the sleeping comfort of a resting person."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170210961.pdf

PCM briefing: 'New paradigm' in pharma cold chain; opening for sales manager at Sonoco ThermoSafe

Ben Welter - Monday, July 24, 2017

GoSun solar stove• The makers of the GoSun portable stove, which uses solar energy to bake, roast or steam food at temperatures up to 290° C, have raised nearly $400,000 from investors on seedinvest.com. The stove initially used high-temperature phase change material to store the sun's energy. "We abandoned the PCM a couple years ago after we started doing testing with it," said GoSun's Matt Gillespie. He said the material did not match the performance promised by the PCM maker, degrading "significantly" after just a few cycles. The current design uses compound parabolic reflectors and a horizontal vacuum tube to convert nearly 80 percent of sunlight into usable heat. The Cincinnati company has sold 10,000 stoves online and in retail outlets such as Home Depot, REI and Cabela's. GoSun plans to use the SeedInvest funds to support continued growth. 

• A “new paradigm” is evolving in the pharma cold chain to address the rapid advance in cellular and genetic therapies that require extremely low temperatures, Pharmaceutical Commerce reports.  

Bio-based chemical processes that include a thermochemical conversion step are finding favor as early forms of industrial bio-based processing mature, Chemical Processing reports.

• New from Accuray Research: "Global Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Market Analysis & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025

• New from QYResearch: "Global High Temperature Phase Change Materials Market Research Report 2017"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Smart Fabrics Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2016-2026"

• The University of Warwick has posted an opening for a Ph.D. studentship in thermal energy storage. The 3.5-year research position is open to candidates from the United Kingdom and European Union.  

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted an opening for a regional sales manager

Creative Ticking of Gastonia, N.C., has announced two new PCM-based cooling technologies. Kyla treatments can be applied to fabrics at different levels depending on the desired cooling level, the company said. Kyla+ is a specially designed yarn that "is durable enough to withstand repeated washing without losing any cooling effects.” Creative Ticking is the bedding specialty division of Beverly Knits.

PCM briefing: Ice Energy signs Australian distribution deal; program posted for thermal management conference in Denver

Ben Welter - Monday, June 26, 2017

Ice Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif., has entered into an agreement calling for Apricus Australia to become the exclusive distributor for all Ice Energy products in Australia. Apricus will market and sell to utilities, businesses and residential customers and will be responsible for installation and service. 

The program has been posted for the 2017 Advancements in Thermal Management conference to be held in Denver Aug. 9-10. Mark Hartmann, CTO at Outlast Technologies, will give a presentation on "Thermal Runaway Prevention of Li-ion Batteries by Novel Thermal Management System." Greg Albright, vice president of business development at AllCell Technologies, will give a presentation on "Conductivity Enhanced Phase Change Materials for Transient Loads." 

• At this month's Techtextil North America trade show in Chicago, Alexium International said it was on track to ship more than 90,000 kilograms of its Alexicool PCM product in June. The company, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, sells the product to mattress fabric producers. Alexium's share price rose 21 percent last week on the Australian Securities Exchange, to 62.5 cents AUS. 

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston has been named to Food Logistics magazine's list of Top Green Providers for 2017. The list recognizes companies whose products, services or leadership is enhancing sustainability in the food and beverage industry. Viking makes a PCM-based thermal battery system designed cut energy consumption cold storage warehouses. 

Entropy Solutions, maker of PureTemp phase change materials, was among the companies honored with a Eureka! Innovation Award at a reception last week. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal awards program recognizes "game-changing" Minnesota businesses in energy, manufacturing, media, product design, engineering and other categories.

Monodraught Ltd. has been accredited by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers to deliver three new continuing professional development modules. One of the free courses explores the use of phase change materials in ventilation systems to reduce a building’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.  

Masdar Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have tested and validated what is touted as the world’s first direct absorption molten salt receiver for concentrated solar power. The single-tank thermal energy storage system has been operational for over two weeks at the Masdar Institute Solar Platform in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The tank holds roughly 4 tons of molten salt, capable of reaching temperatures over 500 degrees Celsius.

• A study published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness highlights the importance of cooling vests for health care workers wearing personal protective equipment in hot, humid environments. Study participants wearing vests fitted with ice packs, phase change materials or water hoses under protective equipment showed fewer signs of heat stress than those who did not.

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