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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.

Two Entropy advisors, Dr. Mohammed Farid and Lucas B. Hyman, are pleased to take your questions about PCMs and thermal energy storage. Send your questions to bwelter@puretemp.com. We'll select the best and post the answers here each week.

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PCM-powered Ember mug is among the prizes on 'Ellen' giveaway show

Ben Welter - Friday, April 28, 2017

Ellen gives away Ember mugs

Products that tap the power of phase change material have appeared on network television before, taking star turns on "Shark Tank" and "Superstore." But until this week, a thermal-management product had never generated howls of appreciation from an audience.

The Ember temperature-control coffee mug was among the high-end products given to cheering audience members on Thursday's episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." The $150 mug, introduced last fall, is sold online and in select Starbucks stores in the United States. It uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user. 

http://www.ellentv.com/videos/0-xtytzlac/

Patent application: Three-layer vessel with phase change material

Ben Welter - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

3-layer vessel patent drawingU.S. patent application 20170071381 (inventors Weng Hua Ze and Ke Wang, Quanxi Town, China):

"A three layer vessel has: a vessel body; a first liner connected to the vessel body and configured within the vessel body; an outside gap formed between the first liner in the vessel body, the outside gap is at least partially evacuated to a lower pressure than atmospheric air pressure; a second liner connected to the vessel body and configured within the first liner; an inside gap formed between the first liner in the second liner; a thermal conductive fluid held within the inside gap; a vessel body rim is formed on the vessel body with the vessel body connects to the first liner. ... An inner space [19] is formed between the vacuum space between the internal spacing, which is filled with thermal conductive fluid. ... The thermal conductive fluid is a phase change material that changes phase between liquid and solid phases."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170071381.pdf

Research roundup: PCM compatibility with metals, plastic; desiccant packet for cooling vest; paraffin viscosity; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, March 23, 2017

Investigation of the corrosive properties of phase change materials in contact with metals and plastic [Renewable Energy]

Preparation and thermal properties of SAT-CMC-DSP/EG composite as phase change material [Applied Thermal Engineering]

A numerical study on the usage of phase change material (PCM) to prolong compressor off period in a beverage cooler [Energy Conversion and Management]

Abilities and limitations of thermal mass activation for thermal comfort, peak shifting and shaving: A review [Building and Environment]

Corrosion effect of phase change materials in solar thermal energy storage application [Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews]

A review for phase change materials (PCMs) in solar absorption refrigeration systems [Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews]

Sodium nitrate – Diatomite composite materials for thermal energy storage [Solar Energy]

Innovative PCM-desiccant packet to provide dry microclimate and improve performance of cooling vest in hot environment [Energy Conversion and Management]

Heat transfer study of phase change materials with graphene nano particle for thermal energy storage [Solar Energy]

Energy performance evaluation of heat-storage gypsum board with hybrid SSPCM composite [Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry]

Empirical equation to estimate viscosity of paraffin [Journal of Energy Storage]

Yearly energy performance of a photovoltaic-phase change material (PV-PCM) system in hot climate [Solar Energy]

Patent application: Heated or cooled dishware and drinkware and food containers

Ben Welter - Monday, February 20, 2017

Ember patent drawingU.S. patent application 20170042373 (applicant Ember Technologies Inc., Westlake Village, Calif.):

"An actively heated or cooled food container can have a lid movable between an open and a closed position and an insulated body to which the lid can be attached. The insulated body can have a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the container body and a base, the sidewall and base defining one or more chambers that can be sealed by the lid. ... The heating and cooling system comprises a cooling element comprising a phase change material disposed in a chamber that surrounds at least a portion of the inner sidewall so that the phase change material is in thermal communication with at least a portion of the inner sidewall of the portable body, the phase change material configured to transition from one phase to a second phase at a predetermined temperature."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170042373.pdf

Lexo tumbler uses material developed by University of Missouri professor

Ben Welter - Monday, January 09, 2017

Lexo PCM tumblerThe heat transfer experts at ThermAvant Technologies, founded in 2007 by two University of Missouri engineering professors, have developed a wide range of oscillating heat pipes, liquid cold plates and other thermal management solutions. Now the Columbia, Mo., company has introduced a stainless steel tumbler that uses biobased phase change material to keep hot beverages at the optimal temperature.

The Lexo tumbler features three layers of 18/8 stainless steel and a BPA-free plastic lid. The 10-ounce version is selling for $37.95; a 16-ounce version will sell for $39.95. By comparison, Joeveo's 16-ounce Temperfect mug, available for preorder on Indiegogo, sells for $40. Ember Technologies' new Wi-Fi enabled temperature-adjustable mug, which employs PCM and a battery-powered heating system, sells for $149.95. 

All three mugs use PCM to absorb the initial heat of coffee or tea and bring it to the optimal drinking temperature.

“Our mug takes about two minutes to cool to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimal drinking temperature, and it stays there for up to eight hours,” said Dr. Bill Ma, the C.W. LaPierre Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the University of Missouri's College of Engineering.

http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2017/0105-new-coffee-mug-holds-liquids-at-optimal-temps-for-8-hours-leads-to-patent-for-mu-engineer/

PCM briefing: Free webinar on thermal conductivity; $8.5 million in funding for Ember Technologies

Ben Welter - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thermal Analysis Labs is offering a free webinar on characterizing the thermal conductivity of phase change materials and heat transfer fluids. The webinar will be held at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 20.

Ember Technologies, maker of the Ember temperature-adjustable mug on sale at Starbucks and online, says it has secured $8.5 million in investor funding to date. The Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user. Celebrity investors include singer-songwriter Demi Lovato, NFL star Ndamukong Suh and retired MLB pitcher Ted Lilly. The mug landed a spot on Popular Science magazine's list of the year's 100 greatest new innovations in science and technology.

Va-Q-tec AG has signed a deal to supply Swiss Post with a fleet of temperature-controlled shippers. The shippers will be used for distribution of pharmaceutical products in the 15º C to 25º C range. 

• A U.S. science and technology think tank urges the Department of Energy to focus on "advanced cooling and thermal energy storage" and other renewable technologies to help the United States retake the lead in the global clean-energy technology market. In a new report, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says U.S. federal funding for energy research and development lags behind 11 other countries as a percentage of gross domestic product.

SunAmp Ltd.'s heat storage battery is among the energy-efficient technologies used in what are being marketed as Scotland’s most eco-friendly homes. The four four-bedroom detached homes in Dalkeith feature rooftop solar panels, triple-glazed windows and 8.5 inches of insulation surrounding all sides, with 7 inches under the floor and 21 inches in the roof. Developers project energy bills of less than $40 a month.  

Ember temperature-control mug finally hits the market

Ben Welter - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ember Technologies, which raised more than $360,000 on IndieGoGo last year, has finally released its flagship product, the temperature-controlled Ember mug.

The $149 mug is being delivered to nearly 2,000 IndieGoGo backers and is available for purchase at dozens of Starbucks outlets in the United States. The mug quickly sold out at starbucks.com (it's back in stock today) and is on backorder on embertech.com, with delivery promised in January.

"The release of the Ember mug is seven years in the making. I started Ember to solve a simple yet universal challenge faced by coffee and tea drinkers everywhere — how can I keep my hot beverage at the ideal temperature for as long as I want," Ember Technologies founder and CEO Clay Alexander said in a news release.

Cutaway of Ember mugThe Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user.

Hot beverages are usually served around 160° Fahrenheit — far too hot to drink. Which means coffee drinkers must typically wait for their java to cool to drinkable temperature, commonly 135°. That's where Ember's phase change cooling technology makes a big difference. The PCM in Ember's lining absorbs the excess heat to rapidly cool the drink and then works in concert with a battery-powered heating element to keep the drink hot.

The Ember mug can maintain a temperature for about two hours on the go or indefinitely when on its slim charging coaster. A twist of the base adjusts the temperature. A mobile app allows users to set and select temperature profiles for coffee, tea or other beverages.

A few early reviews:

• "Beautiful packaging and works flawlessly. I also put in cold water and had it heat to 133. Very cool. Should have ordered an extra coaster." — Christopher Hall, IndieGoGo backer

• "Wish I had another charger and vehicle charger. Two hours is not very long, especially for a second cup of coffee once in town or for the drive back home after shopping day is done. Another wish is that the cup made notification sounds or at least flash 'ready,' Different colors in the display would be great too. Lovin' the temp stays hot!" — Heather Baker, IndieGoGo backer

• "Ember keeps my coffee and tea at the perfect temperature for hours on end. I don't scald my mouth anymore or have to put my drink in the microwave when it's too cold. It's perfect for traveling, everyday use, and going on cold walks when all you want is a warm drink. I highly recommend and a few of my friends already have one for the holidays." — Tayto, Los Angeles, Calif., on starbucks.com

• "Want it hotter or colder? Adjust the temp on the mug or in the app. Works amazing and holds temp for hours. Can't wait to see what else comes out of Ember!" — Eric, Carlsbad, Calif., on starbucks.com

Patent application: Thermal receptacle with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thermal receptacle patent drawingU.S. patent application 20160332799 (applicants Raymond Booska, Melbourne, Fla., and J. Bruce Kolowich, Saline, Mich.):

"A liquid receptacle for rapidly lowering the temperature of a liquid contained therein to a warm range suitable for human contact and maintaining the liquid in the warm range for an extended period of time, the receptacle having a drinking lip at the uppermost end, the receptacle comprising: an inner vessel having an open upper end and closed lower end and a wall connecting the upper end and the lower end; the inner vessel having an inner surface with plurality of indentations or protrusions defined thereon and an outer surface with a plurality of corresponding protrusions or indentations defined thereon such that the effective surface area of the inner and outer surfaces is increased and heat transfer through the wall of the inner vessel is increased; an insulated outer shell spaced from the inner vessel defining an interstitial chamber therebetween, the insulated outer shell having an open upper end and a closed lower end; and a phase change material disposed within said chamber for regeneratively absorbing thermal energy from the liquid and then releasing the thermal energy to the liquid to maintain the temperature of the liquid."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160332799.pdf

Patent application: On-demand beverage cooler with PCM

Ben Welter - Wednesday, November 02, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160313047 (inventors Avner Sodot and Shaul Hanuna, Israel):

Beverage cooler patent drawing"A beverage cooler includes a heat pump having a cooling element thermally coupled to a negative-heat-energy accumulator. The accumulator (14) includes a heat-energy dispersion arrangement formed from thermally conductive material which is in thermal contact with a quantity of phase-change material having a phase-change temperature above zero Celsius. A conduit for the beverage defines a circuitous path thermally coupled to accumulator. The heat pump draws heat energy predominantly from the phase-change material so as to ensure that a temperature of the phase-change material is reduced by at least as much as the temperature of the beverage within conduit, even under zero-flow conditions. This ensures that the accumulator can he fully charged during periods of low beverage dispensing demand without risk of freezing the beverage within conduit."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160313047.pdf

Patent application: Container having a mixture of PCM and graphite powder

Ben Welter - Thursday, October 27, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160309932 (applicant Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research):

Fraunhofer patent drawing"A container may be provided, in particular a beverage container, comprising an inner container wall and an outer container wall, an intermediate space lying between the container walls, wherein the intermediate space is filled with a mixture that contains phase-change material and graphite powder, wherein the graphite powder is introduced into the phase-change material in such a way that the mixture has a pulpy consistency at a temperature at which the phase-change material is liquid. A method may be provided for producing a container that includes the following steps: A) providing an inner container wall and an outer container wall; B) applying a mixture of graphite powder and phase-change material to the inside of the outer container wall and/or the outside of the inner container wall; C) joining the outer container wall and the inner container wall."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160309932.pdf