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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.




Research roundup: Heat transfer enhancement of PCMs; CuO/palmitic acid composite; cooking applications; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

From Materials Today: Proceedings:

Investigation of thermal performance by applying a solar chimney with PCM towards the natural ventilation of model house under Climate of Thailand
Study of Solar– PCM Walls for domestic hot water production under the tropical climate of Thailand
Improved Performance of Composite Phase Change Material for Thermal Energy Storage
Experimental investigation on freezing/melting characteristics of two different phase change materials
Review on Heat Transfer Enhancement of Phase Change Materials (PCMs)
Experimental Investigation of Improved Thermal Characteristics of Al2O3/Barium Hydroxide Octa Hydrate as Phase Change Materials (PCMs)
Improved Thermal Energy Storage Behavior of CuO/Palmitic acid Composite as Phase Change Material

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

An Experimental Investigation of the Melting Process of a Bio-based Nano-PCM filled Vertical Cylindrical Thermal Energy Storage System

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Experimental investigation of the effects of mass fraction and temperature on the viscosity of microencapsulated PCM slurry

From Journal of the Brazilian Society of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering:

Rapid thermal cycling of three phase change materials (PCMs) for cooking applications

From 3rd Thermal and Fluids Engineering Conference:

Use of Wood/Phase Change Material Composite in the Building Envelope for Building Thermal Control and Energy Savings

Research roundup: N-octadecane/polystyrene/expanded graphite composites; decorative wood-based panels for thermal energy storage; more

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

From Energy:

Experimental investigation on n–octadecane/polystyrene/expanded graphite composites as form–stable thermal energy storage materials

From Green Energy and Environment:

Thermal characterization of bio-based phase changing materials in decorative wood-based panels for thermal energy storage

From Chemical Engineering Science:

Melt-Front Propagation and Velocity Profiles in Packed Beds of Phase-Change Materials Measured by Magnetic Resonance Imaging

From Thermal Science and Engineering Progress:

Employment of Finned PCM Container in a Household Refrigerator as a Cold Thermal Energy Storage System

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Melting and solidification of PCM embedded in porous metal foam in horizontal multi-tube heat storage system
Evaluation of paraffin infiltrated in various porous silica matrices as shape-stabilized phase change materials for thermal energy storage

From Construction and Building Materials:

Potential applications of phase change materials to mitigate freeze-thaw deteriorations in concrete pavement
A practical ranking system for evaluation of industry viable phase change materials for use in concrete
Experimental and numerical study of thermal performance of the PCM wall with solar radiation
Utilizing blast furnace slags (BFS) to prepare high-temperature composite phase change materials (C-PCMs) 

From International Journal of Thermophysics:

Behavior of a PCM at Varying Heating Rates: Experimental and Theoretical Study with an Aim at Temperature Moderation in Radionuclide Concrete Encasements

Patent application: Compositions comprising PCM and methods of making the same

Ben Welter - Monday, June 04, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180148621 (applicant Phase Change Energy Solutions Inc., Asheboro, S.C.):

"In one aspect, compositions are described herein. In some embodiments, a composition comprises a phase change material, a hydrophobic sorption material, and a viscosity modifier. In some embodiments, a composition comprises a foam and a latent heat storage material dispersed in the foam, the latent heat storage material comprising a phase change material and a hydrophobic sorption material."

Research roundup: HDPE graphite composite; PCM-integrated PV modules; solar domestic hot water tank with PCM in the mantle; more

Ben Welter - Monday, May 07, 2018

From Particuology:

High density polyethylene (HDPE) — Graphite composite manufactured by extrusion: A novel way to fabricate phase change materials for thermal energy storage

From Solar Energy:

Life cycle costing as a bottom line for the life cycle sustainability assessment in the solar energy sector: A review

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Improving the thermal regulation and efficiency enhancement of PCM-integrated PV modules using nano particles
Climatic behaviour of solar photovoltaic integrated with phase change material

From Energy and Buildings:

Thermal performance assessment and improvement of a solar domestic hot water tank with PCM in the mantle
Fabrication and characterization of fatty acid/wood-flour composites as novel form-stable phase change materials for thermal energy storage

From Renewable Energy:

Possibility of using PCMs in temperature control and performance enhancements of free stand and building integrated PV modules
Performance evaluation of nano-enhanced phase change materials during discharge stage in waste heat recovery

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Microencapsulated n-eicosane PCM suspensions: Thermophysical properties measurement and modeling

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Numerical investigation of different PCM volume on cold thermal energy storage system

From Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews:

Methods of heat transfer intensification in PCM thermal storage systems: Review paper

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

A Review on Thermal Management Methods for Robots

PCM keeps Embry-Riddle’s EcoCAR entry running cool

Ben Welter - Monday, April 30, 2018

Batteries used in hybrid and electric cars work hard and run hot. Traditional cooling systems use an array of pumps, heat exchangers, cooling fans and hoses to manage that heat. Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University needed something lighter and simpler for its entry in the Department of Energy’s EcoCAR 3 competition.

The solution: an aluminum cooling plate filled with biobased phase change material.

A team of mechanical engineering students at the school designed and built the plate under the direction of Sandra Boetcher, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The school’s EcoCAR entry required that the plate use a PCM with a peak melting point of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees F). To achieve that temperature, the team selected two commercially available PCMs – PureTemp 37 and PureTemp 48 – and mixed them together.

Embry-Riddle cold plateBoetcher explains the photo at right:

“That’s the inside of the plate before we sealed the aluminum lid on it. On the inside is a copper tube. At the time we put this in the car, we were under a strict deadline and did not have time to redo the bending of the copper tube. The copper tube feeds a cold ethylene-glycol/water mixture as backup for when the PCM has completely melted and needs to resolidify while the car is driving.

“I was concerned that the copper tube didn’t provide enough coverage of the area, but that cold plate has been in the car for the past 2.5 years and it works great. Actually, the back-up pump that runs the ethylene-glycol/water through the copper tube rarely even turns on which means that under our test-driving conditions, the cold plate is acting 100 percent passive. The terrible part of the PCM is that it loves to leak. We feel that there has been some leaking.”

The plate is lighter and simpler than a water-cooled system. “It doesn’t take any energy to run,” said Patrick Currier, an associate professor who advises the EcoCAR team. “We’re not wasting power cooling things. This is a totally passive system, so unless it leaks, it can’t fail.”

Embry-Riddle filed for a U.S. patent on the device in 2015.

“The diagrams in the patent are similar to what we have in the EcoCAR right now, although the geometry is a little different,” Boetcher said. “The research we are conducting is still on-going. The applications we envision could be anything that requires PCM – battery cooling, building technologies, etc.”

Embry-Riddle is one of 16 North American universities challenged to redesign a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid-electric car to reduce environmental impact, while maintaining the “muscle and performance” the car is known for. 

The teams have had four years to develop their entries. The cars will be put to the test in a variety of events in Arizona and California in May. Winners will be chosen in 40-plus categories at an awards ceremony in Hollywood on May 22, with more than $100,000 in prize money at stake.

Embry-Riddle EcoCAR entry

Research roundup: Fabrication of shape-stable composite PCMs; battery thermal management; segmented heat storage; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fabrication of shape-stable composite phase change materials based on lauric acid and graphene/graphene oxide complex aerogels for enhancement of thermal energy storage and electrical conduction [Thermochimica Acta]

Performance analysis of PCM based thermal energy storage system containing nanoparticles [International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology]

Cold temperature performance of phase change material based battery thermal management systems [Energy Reports]

Design and functionality of a segmented heat-storage prototype utilizing stable supercooling of sodium acetate trihydrate in a solar heating system [Applied Energy]

Macro-encapsulation and characterization of chloride based inorganic phase change materials for high temperature thermal energy storage systems [Applied Energy]

Parametric analysis of a residential building with phase change material (PCM)-enhanced drywall, precooling, and variable electric rates in a hot and dry climate [Applied Energy]

Fabrication of high thermal conductive shape-stabilized polyethylene glycol/silica phase change composite by two-step sol gel method [Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing]

Performance enhancement of cold thermal energy storage system using nanofluid phase change materials: A review [International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer]

Development of form stable Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) coated thermal phase change material for solar water heater applications [IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science]

PCM briefing: Epsom salts for seasonal heat storage; Formato joins Microtek Labs

Ben Welter - Monday, April 16, 2018

Chris Sansom, an associate professor in concentrating solar power at England's Cranfield University, says that magnesium sulphate heptahydrate, or Epsom salts, could be a viable material for seasonal heat storage. Adding water to the salts causes a reaction that creates heat at around 80 degrees C, a good match for space heating and hot water. Sansom is developing a heat storage system for the university’s growing campus. Because the school's CHP system requires a temperature of 90 degrees C, a slightly different form of salt, magnesium nitrate hexahydrate, will be used.

Richard M. FormatoRichard M. Formato, right, formerly R&D manager and principal technologist at Cold Chain Technologies, has joined Microtek Laboratories Inc., Dayton, Ohio, as director of new technology.

Sonoco ThermoSafe and Cathay Pacific Cargo announced a global partnership agreement for the leasing of the PharmaPort 360 temperature-controlled bulk shipping container. The agreement enables pharmaceutical shippers to lease the containers directly from Cathay Pacific Cargo.

Peli BioThermal is adding 13 drop points in Europe for its reusable temperature-controlled shippers. The drop points, located within Rhenus Logistics global network, are at airports in Prague, Copenhagen, Paris, Lyon, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dublin, Milan, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Basel and Barcelona. 

Alexium International Group Ltd. has announced that Susan Thomas has been appointed as Alexium's new chair, replacing Gavin Rezos, who announced in November that he would step down this year. Thomas, a technology entrepreneur with a background in law and corporate finance, will assume the role at a board meeting May 8.

• In a CHEManager article provocatively titled "Hard Times for Bio-based Products," the Frankfurt-based Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DECHEMA) asks: What is the most promising bio-based chemical? Four chemicals are given a close look: succinic acid, glycerol, para-xylene and 1,2-propanediol. And the winner is ...

For Melbourne family, PCM ceiling mats ‘worth the investment’

Ben Welter - Monday, March 05, 2018

A recent two-story addition to a bungalow in suburban Melbourne, Australia, uses bio-based phase change material as a lightweight alternative to thermal mass.

Interior of Playtime HousePhase Change Energy Solutions BioPCM mats containing about 270 kilograms of phase change material were installed above the ceilings, according to architect Penny Guild of Guild Architects. The PCM has a melting point of 24 degrees C. In an e-mail interview, Guild talked about PCM use in the Playtime House project.

Q: What are the projected energy savings related to PCM use in this project?

A: “We didn’t do any specific calculations, but the manufacturer claims between 40 to 80 percent saving in energy bills. The amount of PCM that was put in the project equates to 10kw hours.”

Q: Have you worked with PCM products in the past? Are there plans to use PCM in future projects?

A: “It’s relatively new for the residential market in Australia so I haven’t used it before. The upfront costs are reasonably high, and being a new product there’s not many people that potential clients can turn for advice on its effectiveness. They can’t just ask a friend ‘did you think the PCM was good value in your house’ because no one else has used it. The clients on this project had a high degree of environmental consciousness and both had a science background of some sort (doctor and teacher) and they felt confidant enough it was worth the investment. As the project was an extension above an existing structure adding traditional heavy mass materials was basically impossible which is where the PCM came in.”

Research roundup: Enhanced bulk-organic PCMs; cementitious composites; business clothing incorporating PCMs; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New formulation and characterization of enhanced bulk-organic phase change materials [Energy and Buildings]

Numerical analysis of the freeze-thaw performance of cementitious composites that contain phase change material (PCM) [Materials & Design]

Thermal Properties of Lauric Acid Filled in Carbon Nanotubes as Shape-stabilized Phase Change Materials [Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics]

Thermo-physiological comfort of business clothing incorporating phase change materials in a cold environment [International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology]

Phase change material thermal energy storage for a large scale ammonia chiller/heat pump system [International Institute of Refrigeration]

Case Study of Load Shifting Using Thermal Energy Ice Storage in Public Facilities [Journal of Facility Management]

Microencapsulated phase change materials with composite titania-polyurea (TiO2-PUA) shell [Applied Energy]

Numerical study on the effects of fins and nanoparticles in a shell and tube phase change thermal energy storage unit [Applied Energy]

Novel thermal resonator draws power from daily temperature swings

Ben Welter - Friday, February 16, 2018

MIT thermal resonator test device

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a system that uses phase change material and graphene to convert daily fluctuations in ambient temperature into electrical power. 

The system, called a thermal resonator, is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We basically invented this concept out of whole cloth,” one of the authors, professor Michael Strano, told MIT News. “We’ve built the first thermal resonator. It’s something that can sit on a desk and generate energy out of what seems like nothing. We are surrounded by temperature fluctuations of all different frequencies all of the time. These are an untapped source of energy.”

MIT News writes:

"The researchers realized that to produce power from temperature cycles, they needed a material that is optimized for a little-recognized characteristic called thermal effusivity — a property that describes how readily the material can draw heat from its surroundings or release it. Thermal effusivity combines the properties of thermal conduction (how rapidly heat can propagate through a material) and thermal capacity (how much heat can be stored in a given volume of material). In most materials, if one of these properties is high, the other tends to be low. Ceramics, for example, have high thermal capacity but low conduction.

"To get around this, the team created a carefully tailored combination of materials. The basic structure is a metal foam, made of copper or nickel, which is then coated with a layer of graphene to provide even greater thermal conductivity. Then, the foam is infused with a kind of wax called octadecane, a phase-change material, which changes between solid and liquid within a particular range of temperatures chosen for a given application.

"A sample of the material made to test the concept showed that, simply in response to a 10-degree-Celsius temperature difference between night and day, the tiny sample of material produced 350 millivolts of potential and 1.3 milliwatts of power — enough to power simple, small environmental sensors or communications systems."

The researchers say the system could be used, for example, to continuously power remote sensing systems for years.