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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 mats will be put to the test in 'tiny house' at Colorado School of Mines

Ben Welter - Friday, November 10, 2017

The effectiveness of bio-based phase change material is being tested in a 200-square-foot “tiny house” under construction at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.

Katie Schneider, Colorado School of MinesKatie Schneider, a junior majoring in engineering physics, is chairing the two-year student project, which is scheduled for completion in May 2018.

Though its interior is incomplete, the Mines Tiny House was exhibited at last month’s team Solar Decathlon in Denver. Schneider said the project attracted interest from representatives of the energy and sustainability industry, as well as from other schools that might want to partner with the School of Mines for the next Solar Decathlon in 2020.

“It was a great experience for us to interact with others interested in what we're doing,” Schneider said, “and we got plenty of good ideas from the competitors as well.” 

Entries in the Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, are judged on energy efficiency, design, affordability and consumer appeal.

The University of Nevada-Las Vegas, one of 11 teams in this year’s decathlon, used a PCM product in the ceiling of its entry, a 990-square-foot home that won first place in the innovation category. Ecole Polytechnique of Lausanne, Switzerland, was the overall winner.

The School of Mines team is installing ENRG Blankets donated by Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C. The multi-layer polymer mats, shown above, contain plant-based PCM with a melt-freeze transition temperature of 23º C (73º F). The mats are designed to absorb, store and release energy to help keep living spaces at comfortable temperatures and reduce energy costs.

"We plan to put the PCMs in the ceiling first, between the insulation and our ceiling paneling," Schneider said. "We want to take temperature measurements with and without the PCMs to really test their effectiveness. Then we will possibly put them in the walls, especially near the wheel wells of the trailer because that is a vulnerable point of heat loss for the tiny house."

http://minestinyhouse.weebly.com

Research roundup: Biocatalysts combined to make new PCMs; tankless solar heating system; dual PCM gypsum board; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 02, 2017

Combining biocatalysts to achieve new phase change materials. Application to non-edible animal fat [Molecular Catalysis]

Performance evaluation of dual phase change material gypsum board for the reduction of temperature swings in a building prototype in composite climate [Energy and Buildings]

Study on a tankless solar heating system using phase-change material plaster [Building and Environment]

Performance Enhancement of a Building-Integrated Photovoltaic Module Using Phase Change Material [Energy]

Low cracking ratio of paraffin microcapsules shelled by hydroxyl terminated polydimethylsiloxane modified melamine-formaldehyde resin [Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects]

Numerical and experimental research of cold storage for a novel expanded perlite-based shape-stabilized phase change material wallboard used in building [Energy Conversion and Management]

Comparative study in the identification of liquid to solid transition phase with DSC, Raman spectra analysis and chemiometrics methods applied to phase change materials used for icing-delay in civil engineering infrastructures [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Thickness Determination of a Three-layer Wall with Phase Change Materials in a Chinese Solar Greenhouse [Procedia Engineering]

Experimental Study on Thermal Performance Improvement of Building Envelopes Integrated with Phase Change Materials in an Air-conditioned Room [Procedia Engineering]

Phase Change Humidity Control Material and its Application in Buildings [Procedia Engineering]

Research roundup: Metal corrosion rate assessment; industrial heat storage; erythritol, glycerol and olive oil; more

Ben Welter - Monday, October 30, 2017

A Review of Phase Change Materials as an Alternative for Solar Thermal Energy Storage [Materials Today]

Step by Step Methodology for the Assessment of Metal Corrosion Rate with PCMs Suitable for Low Temperature Heat Storage Applications [Materials Today]

Investigation of the effect on the efficiency of phase change material placed in solar collector tank [Thermal Science and Engineering Progress]

Generalized diagrams of energy storage efficiency for latent heat thermal storage system in concentrated solar power plant [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Thermal energy storage with phase change materials to increase the efficiency of solar photovoltaic modules [Energy Procedia]

Development of industrial PCM heat storage lab prototype [Energy Procedia]

High Power Latent Heat Storages With 3D Wire Structures – Numerical Evaluation Of Phase Change Behavior [Energy Procedia]

Experimental comparison of two heat exchanger concepts for latent heat storage applications [Energy Procedia]

Erythritol, glycerol, their blends, and olive oil, as sustainable phase change materials [Energy Procedia]

Research roundup: Rubber sealing materials; pork fat as novel PCM; thermal inertia of buildings; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Feasibility of Using Microencapsulated Phase Change Materials as Filler for Improving Low Temperature Performance of Rubber Sealing Materials [Soft Matter]

Evaluation of the nanofluid and nano-PCM based photovoltaic thermal (PVT) system: An experimental study [Energy Conversion and Management]

Investigation of pork fat as potential novel phase change material for passive cooling applications in photovoltaics [Journal of Cleaner Production]

Superwetting polypropylene aerogel supported form-stable phase change materials with extremely high organics loading and enhanced thermal conductivity [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Polyethylene glycol-enwrapped silicon carbide nanowires network/expanded vermiculite composite phase change materials: Form-stabilization, thermal energy storage behavior and thermal conductivity enhancement [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Solar desalination using solar still enhanced by external solar collector and PCM [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Using Thermal Inertia of Buildings with Phase Change Material for Demand Response [Energy Procedia]

Preparation of microencapsulated phase change materials (MEPCM) for thermal energy storage [Energy Procedia]

Study of thermal conductive enhancement mechanism and selection criteria of carbon-additive for composite phase change materials [International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer]

Managing room temperature with PCM? There's an art to it

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A good piece of framed art can light up a room. Now, to some degree, it can also heat and cool it.

Cutaway of Tempassist wall decorTempassist, a wall decor system developed by Larson-Juhl of Norcross, Ga., and Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C., is designed to maintain comfortable temperatures and reduce energy costs.

Here’s how it works: BioPCM, a biobased phase change material made by PCES, is enclosed in multi-layer film mats and placed in each frame, behind a large piece of art. The PCM absorbs excess heat when temperatures rise above 72 degrees F. When room temperature falls below 72, the PCM releases the heat. 

PCES says the system, which is now aimed at commercial customers such as hotels, hospitals and office buildings, offers a minimum 40 percent reduction in HVAC run times and 50 percent reduction in system on/off cycles, using temperature-control materials lasting more than 85 years.

Larson-Juhl is bringing Tempassist to market under a partnership/licensing agreement with PCES.

Doug Doolen, PCES’ Tempassist expert, answered questions about the product by email:

Q: How did the idea for this product originate?

A: In 2015, Phase Change Energy Solutions, Inc. (Phase Change) had a tech partner group introduce us to Larson-Juhl, a Berkshire Hathaway Company with a hundred-year history in manufacturing innovative custom picture frame moldings and wall décor all over the world.

In early discussions, Phase Change presented ENRG Blanket and BioPCM as a plant-based phase change material that can work in any orientation inside the building envelope. As an example, Phase Change mentioned use in a large coffeehouse as a place where ENRG Blanket could be incorporated behind the wall décor and pictures they had on display. This would help buffer thermal loads during peak hours associated with people and long lines and thus drive energy savings. 

LJ asked if the same concept could be applied to any room with wall décor that they supply across the world. 

Phase Change produced scale-model replicas of various rooms and validated proof of concept. This was then scaled to demonstrate performance with different material densities, conductivity and performance.

Full-size room/multiple-room testing commenced late in 2015 to prove room savings, distribution within the room and finally performance. This led to several successful full-building tests which showed significant energy savings that is consistent (often exceeding) the advertised 25-35% HVAC energy savings.

Q: Which PCM is used? C23? C25? Or a new PCM altogether?

A: BioPCM is the material powering Tempassist. It is specifically tuned (transition temperature and mass) to perform to this specific application. Larson-Juhl has also incorporated various features and construction elements that enhance overall performance.

Q: What's your take on the potential market size? 

A: Market size is quite large when you consider the number of retail and commercial structures with multiple room/floor configurations.

Smart pet feeder keeps Fido's kibble cool with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 07, 2017

It's not much to look at, but an ingenious assembly of off-the-shelf electronic components could be just what a busy (and geeky) pet owner needs. The Mario Feeder allows users to schedule and monitor pet feedings from a smart phone and plays a personalized message alerting Fido when it's time to chow down. If Fido fails to heed the call, an alert will be sent to the owner's phone. Other features of the rotating dispenser include:

Mario FeederProximity detection: The bowl will open only when your RFID-tagged pet is nearby, to stop other animals from stealing food.

Bark detection: The feeder is "constantly listening" and will send an alert if your pet sounds distressed.

Smart scale: Tracks what your pet eats, when it eats and how much it eats.

Phase change material: Keeps perishable food cold. 

Developers have launched an Indiegogo campaign in hopes of raising $46,500 to help bring the product to market. They've also produced a video that might be the cutest ad you'll see on the Internet today:

Mario pet feeder video grab

Lead engineer Justin O'Neill answered a few PCM-focused questions by e-mail:

Q: What type of PCM is used? 

A: "We believe that the ability to keep food cold throughout the day is an important feature in a premium pet feeder, and strangely absent in competing products. We are using an organic PCM with a melting point of around 6 degrees Celsius. ... [It is] a bio-based PCM. This isn't because we believe there is a risk of food contamination (very small risk since we are using a robust casing) but more of a product life-cycle consideration with disposal."

Q: How is the PCM encapsulated? 

A: "The PCM is encapsulated in the walls and base of the main bowl, and it is recharged by placing the whole bowl into the freezer/ fridge. We did play with the idea of having separate removable compartments, but this did not fit with our ethos of reducing the total number of components. The bowl is sized so that it will fit in to most domestic freezers/ fridges (also less fiddly for the user). ... Our final design has two compartments with thicker base to hold more PCM. Prototypes have been developed with an ABS housing, but the final version could be PP or HDPE. ... We would have loved to use aluminium or stainless casing but the bowl is a fairly complex moulding and I suspect we would have ended up with high pressure die casting and a step change in cost."

Q: What are the dimensions of the product? 

A: "The bowl is ~310mm in diameter, depending on where exactly you are measuring. We tried to balance catering to larger pets with ensuring it isn't too big for apartments, and of course getting the food bowl with PCM it into a fridge/ freezer."

Q: How long does the product provide a cooling effect?

A: "Our intent is only to provide the ability to delay food spoiling, not keep it frozen or cold indefinitely. Our target has been delaying spoiling for 3-4 hours vs food being exposed, and obviously the performance varies greatly with ambient temperature, the foodstuff and volume of food. The Mario feeder allows users to set an expiration time. I.e after a specified time a particular compartment will be forbidden to expose even if the dog is near (RFID proximity detection) as food may be spoiled. By keeping food out of the sun (using proximity detection and rotating the bowl) we further improve total performance."

Patent application: Gel comprising PCM and gelling agent

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 31, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170247593 (Cold Chain Technologies Inc., Franklin, Mass.):

CCT patent application photo"Gel including a phase-change material and a gelling agent. In one embodiment, the phase-change material may be n-tetradecane, n-hexadecane or mixtures thereof. The gelling agent may be a high molecular weight styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene (SEBS) triblock copolymer with a styrene:rubber ratio of about 30:70 to 33:67% by weight. To form the gel, the phase-change material and the gelling agent may be mixed at an elevated temperature relative to room temperature to partially, but not completely, dissolve the gelling agent. The mixture may then be cooled to room temperature. Alternatively, the phase-change material and the gelling agent may be mixed at room temperature, and the mixture may then be heated to form a viscoelastic liquid, which is then cooled to room temperature. The invention is also directed at a method of preparing the gel, a thermal exchange implement including the gel, and a method of preparing the thermal exchange implement."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170247593.pdf

Research roundup: Carbonized rice; erythritol-xylitol; integrated double skin façade; paraffin-based TES system; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Form stable composite phase change materials from palmitic-lauric acid eutectic mixture and carbonized abandoned rice: preparation, characterization, and thermal conductivity enhancement [Energy and Buildings]

Mitigation against Crude Oil Wax Solidification using TES Fin [Chemical Engineering Research and Design]

Heat transfer analysis of an integrated double skin façade and phase change material blind system [Building and Environment]

Experimental Phase Diagram Study of the Binary Polyols System Erythritol-Xylitol [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Study of Various Aspects of Phase Change Material During Solidification and Melting: A Review [pdf] [International Journal of Scientific Research in Science and Technology]

Development in Paraffin Based Thermal Storage System Through Shell and Tubes Heat Exchanger With Vertical Fins [ASME 2017 11th International Conference on Energy Sustainability]

Ember secures $13 million to accelerate R&D, marketing initiatives

Ben Welter - Monday, August 28, 2017

Ember Technologies, maker of the Ember temperature-controlled coffee mug, has secured $13 million in Series C funding.

The close of this round brings Ember’s total funding to $21 million. Investors to date include Scott Cutler, CEO of StubHub, singer-songwriter Demi Lovato and National Football League star Ndamukong Suh. 

The $150 Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user. Ember plans to introduce "several new temperature-control products" in the next six to nine months. The additional capital will be used to accelerate R&D and marketing initiatives.

http://www.finsmes.com/2017/08/ember-technologies-raises-13m-in-series-c-funding.html

Patent application: Thermal energy storage PCMs comprising boronic acids

Ben Welter - Tuesday, August 22, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170226395 (applicant Entropy Solutions LLC, Plymouth, Minn.):

"Provided are Phase Change Material (PCMs) compositions for thermal management in different applications such as building, automotive, airplane, truck, shipping, packaging, textile and food storage and transport applications. Provided are compositions comprising non-toxic molecules with enhanced PCM characteristics comprising boronic acids and equivalents, including for example, non-aromatic cyclic boronic acids, alkyl boronic acids, alkene boronic acids, arylboronic acids, and related compounds. In alternative embodiments, provided are thermal energy storage compositions, products of manufacture or systems comprising: a phase change material (PCM) composition comprising a boronic acid or boronic acid derivatives, wherein the PCM undergoes solid to liquid and liquid to solid phase change transitions."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170226395.pdf