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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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Patent application: A passive temperature control system for transport and storage containers

Ben Welter - Thursday, July 18, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190219320 (applicant Softbox Systems Ltd., Long Crendon, Great Britain):

"The present invention relates to the field of the transportation and storage of goods and to a passive temperature control system for such a transport and storage containers. The present invention seeks to provide a system that can enable goods to be securely and reliably transported and stored for limited periods within specified temperature ranges. Pharmaceuticals, proteins, biological samples and other temperature sensitive products, including food items, are regularly shipped in containers year round and are subjected to a wide range of temperatures. Though they are shipped in insulated containers and/or climate controlled environments, the temperature stability of the shipping containers can be significantly improved by utilising suitable phase change materials in an ordered fashion. The present invention provides a simple solution to the maintenance of temperature profiles for the transport and storage of temperature sensitive products."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190219320.pdf

PCM briefing: Lineup set for TES forum in Duesseldorf; CIC Energigune joins European research network

Ben Welter - Friday, June 21, 2019

Christoph Rathgeber of ZAE Bayern and Michael Andretzky of the University of Duisburg-Essen are among the speakers at next week's Thermal Energy Storage Forum in Dusseldorf, Germany. The forum will focus on the use of thermal storage in industrial processes. Rathgeber's topic is "Economy of thermal energy storage." Andretzky's topic: "PCM in buffer tank for CHPs."

Crystallize bubble• Another frosty gem from Physics Today: "Bubbles freeze in a swirl of ice crystals"

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has launched an electric thermal energy storage system designed to store large quantities of energy cost-effectively. The pilot plant in Hamburg can store up to 130 MWh of thermal energy for a week. It uses a steam turbine to convert stored energy into electricity. 

CIC Energigune, a thermal energy storage research center in Spain's Basque Country, has joined the ALISTORE-ERI network. The European network brings together 20 research centers and 12 companies engaged in advanced energy storage research.

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston has made Food Logistics' list of Top Green Providers 2019. Viking was honored in two categories, refrigeration and alternative fuels &  energy. The company says its PCM-based thermal storage system, designed for use in cold storage facilities, can reduce energy consumption by more than 25 percent.

Cryopak, a maker of insulated shipping containers, gel packs and phase change materials, says it is taking steps toward reducing its carbon footprint with the launch of a new line of shipping solutions. The company, based in Edison, N.J. says its R3 Service Program "minimizes the need for insulation materials, phase change solutions, bottles and their necessary disposal by handling the coordination of container delivery, reverse logistics and required refurbishment."

Sonoco ThermoSafe has an opening for a sales manager with "experience in strategic selling across Europe."

Patent application: Transport container

Ben Welter - Friday, June 14, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190178534 (inventor Nico Ros, Riehen, Switzerland):

"In a transport container for transporting temperature-sensitive transport goods comprising a chamber for receiving the transport goods, a casing enclosing the chamber and at least one cooling element for temperature control of the chamber, the cooling element comprises an evaporation element with a cooling surface and a desiccant for receiving coolant evaporated in the evaporation element. The transport container further comprises a latent heat accumulator that communicates with the chamber for heat exchange. ... In a preferred embodiment, in which the transport goods are to be kept in the chamber at a temperature range of 2-8° C., the latent heat accumulator has a phase transition temperature of approx. 4-6° C."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190178534.pdf

PCM briefing: Building Skins conference agenda; tough words for CALMAC and Axiom Exergy

Ben Welter - Saturday, May 25, 2019

• The agenda is set for the 14th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29 in Bern, Switzerland. The Japanese architect and Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban will be the keynote speaker. Among the more than 150 speakers is Thomas Friedrich of Innogration GmbH, Germany, who will discuss "collection of thermal energy from the façade" and "decentralized PCM storage elements for saving thermal energy." The registration fee is 680 euros and includes the conference documentation as well as meals during both days. Participants who register by May 31 will receive a 20 percent discount.

Mike HopkinsIn a LinkedIn post, former Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins shared his take on two of the California company's competitors in distributed thermal energy storage. "Look at @CALMAC, a Portfolio of Trane - been in our industry forever, good product, but haven't been able to secure utility deals because their large bespoke systems make it too risky to commit to MWs in a location on a schedule," wrote Hopkins, who is now CEO at Bakken Midstream. "Relative newcomer [Axiom Exergy] came to market with their #refrigeration #battery. Good concept but not plug and play. Not surprising, they seem to have recast themselves as a #cloud based power management company."

• Speaking of CALMAC: CEO Mark McCracken will speak on "some of the myths surrounding ice-based TES" at an ASHRAE technical seminar on thermal energy storage in building design in Hong Kong June 13. 

FedEx Express has launched a temperature-controlled shipping solution in Japan, Korea and Singapore. The company says its Medpak VIºC packaging, first introduced in Europe, provides 96-hour temperature stability. The reusable thermal packaging features vacuum insulated panels and phase change material validated to International Safe Transit Association 7D standards.

CIC energiGUNE, a research center in Spain's Basque Country, has an opening for a researcher in its thermal energy storage area. The research will focus on the storage of heat through reversible chemical reactions "in a range of temperature few explored so far (120 - 250 °C)." The application deadline is Sept. 11, 2019.   

Barbara Pause of Textile Testing & Innovation will be among the speakers at this year's Advances in Thermal Management conference, to be held Aug. 7-8 in Denver, Colo. Her topic: "Measuring and Modeling the Thermal Performance of Products Equipped with Phase Change Materials." 

• Thermal energy storage startup NET Energy of Chicago is among 10 finalists for the University of Chicago’s 19th annual Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge. Winners will be announced next week, with the top companies sharing $250,000 in cash, along with $250,000 worth of office space and professional services from program sponsors. 

PCM briefing: Cold chain veteran joins Phase Change Energy Solutions; Outlast showcases new nylon filament yarn

Ben Welter - Friday, May 10, 2019

Bruce TruesdaleBruce Truesdale has joined Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C., as director of business development - cold chain. He was formerly senior supply chain consultant at Verta Life Sciences and director of health care at Protek Pharma Worldwide. He declined an interview request, but his new job title suggests that PCES, whose product line now focuses on HVAC, building and thermal energy storage, has an interest in the temperature-controlled packaging market. Earlier this year, PCES announced an investment by Pegasus Capital Advisors, Emerald Technology Ventures and Third Prime, an early-stage venture fund and prior investor. The company said it would use the proceeds to fund the continued development of its thermal storage products and expand its operations globally.

Chalmers University of Technology of Sweden has an opening for a postdoctoral researcher in thermal energy storage for building applications. The research group Building Physics is working "to find out how novel TES with phase change materials (PCM) could complement the existing district heating and cooling networks and co-operate with other peak shaving techniques (water accumulator tanks, ground heat storage pumps, etc.) through smart thermal grids." The application deadline is June 9.

Outlast will showcase its new nylon filament yarn at the Techtextil trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, next week. "The PCMs optimized for this specific application," Outlast says, "are included directly inside the polyamide fibers." Potential applications include next-to-skin products such as undergarments, shapewear, sportswear and hosiery. The company says it now sources the majority of PCMs used in its products from renewable instead of synthetic raw materials.

PCM coolerA PCM coating designed to absorb heat from rockets is among the dozens of NASA spinoffs listed in the latest issue of Spinoff, an annual publication that has been documenting space agency spinoffs since 1976. In the early 2000s, Raj Kaul, a materials scientist at Marshall Space Flight Center, began researching a way to use PCM to keep the outside of spacecraft at a safe temperature. An entrepreneur eventually snapped up the patent for the coating Kaul developed and is working on a number of products based on the technology, including aircraft paint, pipe heat traps and an iceless cooler, shown at right. 

• The U.S. Department of Energy this week announced $89 million in funding for "innovative, advanced manufacturing research and development projects." "Innovations for the Manufacture of Advanced Materials," one of three areas to receive funding, includes phase change storage materials for heating and cooling applications. The department anticipates making up to 55 awards for up to three years. Concept papers are due on June 20.

PCM briefing: 'Awareness' of PCM technology seen as key challenge; researchers develop novel anti-icing material

Ben Welter - Friday, April 26, 2019

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers say they've developed a material that can inhibit the formation of ice much longer than existing technologies, New Atlas reports. The anti-icing material is made of phase-changing liquids that have heat-trapping properties. Researchers say the material works effectively in temperatures as low as -15° C.

Collin CokerIn an interview with Engineered Systems, Viking Cold Solutions' vice president of sales and marketing talks about the state of the thermal energy storage market and the company's PCM-based thermal storage systems. What's been the Houston company's biggest challenge over the past 18 months? "Awareness," said Collin Coker, right. "We constantly hear, 'This is really interesting; I've never seen it before; do you have fluid moving through the refrigeration system?' So, breaking it down and explaining that it’s non-mechanical and very simple is part of the challenge. Getting people to believe that this technology can provide savings in the range of 10-50% in some applications is also a challenge. A lot of folks are fairly guarded, because that level of savings has never been achieved in this industry before. It just seems too good to be true. "

• The World Bank announced a new program this week to accelerate the adoption of sustainable cooling technologies, including air conditioning, refrigeration and cold chain in developing countries. The program will provide technical assistance to ensure that efficient cooling is included in new World Bank Group investment projects.

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted the agenda for the company's next Leading Minds Seminar, to be held May 29 in Princeton, N.J. Co-hosted by ELPRO, the seminars offer a chance for pharmaceutical manufacturers, supply chain partners and government representatives to discuss temperature-assurance packaging and data monitoring in a collaborative environment. Panelists for a discussion on reusable shipping systems include Mark Everitt, qualification engineer at AstraZeneca, and Michael English, director of engineering at Merck.

PCM briefing: Ice Energy signs distribution deal; Bloom joins Sunamp as board chairman

Ben Welter - Monday, April 22, 2019

Ice Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif., has reached distribution agreements with four California companies to sell, install and maintain its ice-based thermal storage system, the Ice Bear 20. The companies are Correy Baker Heating and Air of Murrieta; Emery Mechanical Engineering of San Diego; H3 of Santa Barbara; and SunRize Mechanical of Temecula. “This distribution network will enable us to further expand our footprint in the residential market in Southern California,” said Marcel Christians, co-COO of Ice Energy.

Sonoco ThermoSafe and AirBridgeCargo Airlines have announced a global partnership agreement for the leasing of the PharmaPort 360 temperature-controlled shipping container. The agreement will enable pharmaceutical shippers to lease PharmaPort 360 containers directly from AirBridgeCargo.

Martin Bloom• Thermal battery maker Sunamp Ltd. of Scotland has appointed Martin Bloom as chairman of the board. Bloom, right, has extensive experience in high-growth technology and renewable energy companies, including Chinese solar company Renesola and Loughborough-based fuel cell specialist Intelligent Energy. Bloom succeeds Sunamp’s founding chairman, Bob Pettigrew, who oversaw its early growth.

Nominations are being accepted for the 2019 Poncelet Prize for Innovation in Microencapsulation, co-sponsored by Procter & Gamble and the Bioencapsulation Research Group. The award recognizes innovation in process design and modernization; development of new core and shell materials; innovation in characterization methods; or innovation in emerging fields of applications. The deadline for submitting nominations is May 31, 2019.

Peli BioThermal is rebranding its Chronos temperature-controlled shippers. CoolGuard PCM will replace Chronos Express, and CoolGuard Advance will replace Chronos Advance. The CoolGuard shippers will offer configurations with fewer components and additional temperature set points, such as 16º C.

• Registration is open for "Phase Change Material & Passive Cooling in Large Venues," a lunch-hour presentation by Henderson Engineers. The free event, sponsored by AIA Kansas City, will be held June 12 at the Center for Architecture & Design in Kansas City, Mo.

Axiotherm GmbH's kraftBoxx thermal energy storage system is a finalist for a Smarter E Award in the renewable energy category. KraftBoxx is a joint development with Klara Energy and Tuxhorn within the scope of the PCM-based HeatSel product line marketed by Axiotherm. Winners will be announced May 15 in Munich.

• PCM expert Harald Mehling's new book is available on Amazon: "Understanding the Basics of Energy: An Introduction from Simple to Complex Situations."

Tempur-Pedic of Lexington, Ky., says its new TEMPUR-breeze mattress will help sleepers "stay up to 8 degrees F cooler through the night." According to Tempur-Pedic: "At about 80°F, the molecules within TEMPUR-breeze’s most efficient Phase Change Material (PCM) to-date, PURECOOL+, activate, shifting from a solid to a liquid to absorb massive amounts of heat. For the first time, Tempur-Pedic’s scientists successfully altered these proprietary molecules to deliver more phase change material, increasing its capacity to absorb heat by 2x compared to other PCM."

• Two new ASHRAE publications will be available in June: "Owner’s Guide for Buildings Served by District Cooling" and an updated edition of the "District Cooling Guide" for designers and building owners around the world.

• Researchers at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a polyethylene glycol-infused wood material that could be used to make windows that absorb heat during the day and release it into the home at night. The researchers are working to increase the heat storage capacity of the transparent wood, Smithsonian.com reports.

Patent application: Gel comprising a phase change material

Ben Welter - Sunday, March 24, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190085226 (applicant Cold Chain Technologies Inc., Franklin, Mass.):

CCT PCM gel product"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/20190085226.pdf

PCM briefing: 2-day training school in Barcelona; Alexium to launch foam bedding, 'top of bed' products

Ben Welter - Friday, March 15, 2019

A training school on thermal energy storage material selection, optimization and characterization will be offered May 20-21 at the University of Barcelona. The university's Center for Design and Optimization of Processes and Materials is hosting the event. The fee is 230 euros. Lecturers include Camila Barreneche, Ana Inés Fernández, Mercè Segarra and Pablo Gamallo of the University of Barcelona; Luisa Cabeza and Alvaro de Gracia of the University of Lleida, Spain; and Yulong Ding of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Alexium International Group Ltd. was among the companies making presentations this week at the Gabelli & Company Specialty Chemicals Conference in New York City. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments. Among its "cornerstone" initiatives is a plan to launch a new product line in early 2019, Alexicool FM, the application of the company's Alexicool technology to foam mattress and "top of bed" products.  

• Thermal materials specialist va-Q-tec reports that its annual revenue grew by 8 percent in 2018. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, said sales from its products business, including vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials, increased by 12 percent to 20.1 million euros, up from 18 million euros in 2017. However, its earnings fell by 58 percent, to 3 million euros. It blamed earnings decrease on investment costs and a rise in sales from its lower-margin products business.

• Australian researchers are challenging the belief that 22° C (72° F) is the optimum temperature to maintain worker productivity. A team from Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment and Cities Research Institute performed an extensive review of research literature on the relation of moderate thermal environment to cognitive performance. "From the research point of view," the lead researcher, Fan Zhang, said in an interview with the Cooling Post, "there is no empirical evidence that this temperature [22ºC] should be maintained. In effect, it is inconsistent with the already-established comfort benchmarks such as ASHRAE 55-2017, which recommends a summer time thermal comfort zone of 23-26ºC. I would say 23-26 is a safe summer temperature set point range for western developed countries."

PCM briefing: Sunamp among 'Scottish tech companies to watch' in 2019; C-Therm webinar on new thermal conductivity instrument

Ben Welter - Monday, January 07, 2019

Rail shipping container with PCM

• The University of Birmingham's Center for Energy Storage has teamed up with a Chinese railway equipment manufacturer to develop a shipping container that uses phase change materials to maintain a low temperature over several days without a power supply. "Once ‘charged’, PCM inside the container - which can be transferred from train to truck and vice versa - can keep the inside temperature between 5-12 ˚C for up to 120 hours," the university reports.

CNET's Scott Stein takes a close look at PowerStation, "a battery of sorts that can keep a low-power sensor running off the temperature differences in everyday weather conditions." The device, made by Matrix Industries of Menlo Park, Calif., stores heat in a substance the company calls "Luna Phase Change Material" and later releases the heat in the form of electricity.

Scottish Business Insider has named Sunamp Ltd. one of five Scottish tech companies to watch in 2019. "The £2.2m raised in its latest fundraising sets the company up for a Series A round in 2019 as it looks to expand its international footprint and further scale its operations," Insider writes. "Sunamp heat batteries have so far been installed in over a thousand homes across the UK." 

C-Therm managing director Adam Harris is hosting a webinar this week to introduce the company's new thermal conductivity instrument, the C-Therm Trident. Advance registration is required for the webinar, which will be held at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Jan. 10.

• At a business summit in Wisconsin last month, Encapsys President Mary Goggans said the Appleton-based company offers internships to students at regional colleges, including the children of employees. “The interns see the jobs and technologies they are interested in right here in the area,” Goggans said. “They realize they don’t need to get a job outside of the region to have the career they are looking for.”