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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: 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.”

Patent application: Insulating container and transportation device

Ben Welter - Friday, December 21, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180362243 (applicant Solee Science & Technology Co. Ltd., Wuhan, China):

"An insulating container comprises a container body and a container cover connected to the container body. The container both and the container cover each comprises a frame and a plate arranged on the frame. The plate comprises, from inside out, an external high strength sheet, an extruded polystyrene sheet, phase-change insulating sheets made of phase-change material, and an internal sheet. A phase-change process of the phase-change insulating sheets cooperates with a refrigeration system of the transportation device to precisely control the temperature of the insulating container and a refrigerator truck to be near a phase-change temperature. In the present disclosure, the phase-change insulating sheets made of the phase-change material remain to be in a solid state before or after occurrence of a phase change, so that the structure of the insulating container does not change with the phase change and a leakage problem of the phase-change material does not exist."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180362243.pdf

PCM briefing: McGill joins Phase Change Energy Solutions as CEO; Croda is No. 3 on Britain's Most Admired Companies list

Ben Welter - Friday, December 21, 2018

Dennis McGillDennis McGill, operations advisor at Pegasus Capital Advisors, has joined Phase Change Energy Solutions as chief executive officer and chairman of the board. McGill, right, has more than 30 years of experience in senior financial and executive leadership roles. For the past three years, he has been the CEO and chairman of the board for ReCommunity Recycling of Charlotte, N.C. 

Malta Inc., a spinoff of Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, has raised $26 million in Series A funding. The Massachusetts company is developing an electro-thermal energy storage system that stores energy in the form of the thermal differential between hot and cold storage media. 

Croda International, maker of phase change materials and other specialty chemicals, is No. 3 on Management Today's list of Britain's Most Admired Companies 2018. Diageo and McDonald's took the top two spots.

• From Andrew Chang, regional operations director at Ice Energy, on LinkedIn: "Today was a major milestone for Ice Energy. We commissioned our 100th Ice Bear in the SCE LCR program in #OrangeCounty! We are currently offsetting about 1.5MW for 4 hours every day in Orange County."

MIT researchers have developed a way to use light to trigger the storage and release of waste heat from car engines and other sources. "Once melted and activated by ultraviolet light, the [phase change] material stores the absorbed heat until a beam of visible light triggers solidification and heat release," Phys.org reports. "Key to that control are added molecules that respond to light by changing shape from one that impedes solidification to one that permits it."

Nebu Block T10• Via LinkedIn: "It might not look like it, but this is how VIPs help to store energy. Vacuum insulated panels, that is. ZAE Bayern cooperates with va-Q-tec, Nebuma GmbH, Verallia, and Lungmuß Feuerfest to make industrial high-temperature energy storages more efficient and less hard to find." Nebuma's 20-foot mobile container, shown at right, is designed to store about 16 MWh of heat at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Dr. Yixiang Gan of the University of Sydney is among 11 researchers to win fellowships from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund for 2019. His focus: "Optimizing thermal energy storage with phase change materials: with applications to solar energy storage in Australia and India." 

• Registration is open for the 44th Stanford Geothermal Workshop, to be held Feb. 11-13 at Stanford University in California.

• Registration is open for Energy Storage Europe, "the leading international trade fair for energy storage," to be held March 12-14 in Dusseldorf, Germany. 

• The 14th Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29, 2019, in Bern, Switzerland, has issued a call for papers. The deadline for submissions is June 1. Registration for the conference is expected to open once the program is published in April. 

Pelican BioThermal has appointed Lynaye Reynolds as worldwide director of quality. She joined the company three years ago as the quality manager at its site in Leighton Buzzard in the United Kingdom.

1414 Degrees’ molten silicon biogas energy storage system will be installed at a wastewater treatment plant in South Australia. The $3.2 million (AUS) pilot project is a joint effort of 1414 Degrees and SA Water.

Patent application: Shipping system for temperature-sensitive materials

Ben Welter - Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Cold Chain Technologies patent drawingU.S. patent application 20180328644 (applicant Cold Chain Technologies, Franklin, Mass.):  

"Shipping system for storing and/or transporting temperature-sensitive materials. In one embodiment, the system includes an outer box having four side walls, bottom closure flaps, and top closure flaps. A vacuum insulated panel (VIP) is detachably coupled to one of the top closure flaps and is removably covered by a cover. An insulation unit is removably positioned within the outer box, the insulation unit including a plurality of VIPs arranged to define a cavity bounded by a bottom wall and four side walls. A disposable liner is removably mounted on the insulation unit. The liner may be a thermoformed sheet and may cover the interior and top surfaces of the insulation unit. A plurality of temperature-control members and a product box may be removably positioned in the liner."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180328644.pdf

Patent application: A transportation box with PCM

Ben Welter - Monday, November 12, 2018

Pluss patent application drawingU.S. patent application 20180320947 (inventors Devendra Jain, Nidhi Agarwal, Ravi A.T. Teja and Deepraj Sarmah, Gurgaon, India): 

"A transportation box comprising a plurality of first phase change materials (16), a plurality of second phase change materials (20), a first box (18) adapted to enclose a payload box (10), a second box (22) and an outer box (14). The payload box (10) is embedded with the plurality of second phase change materials (20). Further, each of the plurality of first phase change materials (16) is placed above and below the payload box (10). The second box (22) is adapted to contain temperature sensitive products and is nestable within the payload box (10). The first box (18) is nestable within the outer box (14). The plurality of first phase change materials (16) and the plurality of second phase change materials (20) are arranged in a manner such that air in between controls heat flow into and within the first box (18)."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180320947.pdf

Patent application: Thermo protection storage cell for cold transport box

Ben Welter - Monday, October 29, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180283761 (applicant Swissmedpack Technologien JP. Buettiker GmbH, Basel, Switzerland):

"A thermo-protection-storage-cell for the ensuring of a temperature range from a lower temperature exposure limit to an upper temperature exposure limit contains a thermo-cell body and at least one filling chamber which is arranged in the thermo-cell body. At least one filling chamber is filled with a first phase-change material which changes its phase at the point of the lower temperature exposure limit. The at least one filling chamber is filled with a second phase-change material which changes its phase at the point of the upper temperature exposure limit. The thermo-protection-storage-cell facilitates an efficient and safe ensuring of a temperature-sensitive good in a useful way, especially during its transport."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180283761.pdf

PCM briefing: UCF wins $360,000 grant to develop solar storage module; Nike unveils prototype cooling vest

Ben Welter - Monday, September 17, 2018

• The University of Central Florida was awarded a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation last month to develop and commercialize a grid-connected solar storage module. UCF is partnering with battery maker AllCell Technology to develop the system, known as iPV++. The system will use smart inverters and battery management to deliver stable and predictable PV-based solar power for grid-tied applications. AllCell phase change composite material will provide passive thermal management of the system's lithium-ion battery modules. Dr. Issa Batarseh, UCF electrical engineering professor and the project principal investigator, says use of the material "guarantees the safety of the battery modules, simplifies the installation and maintenance, and significantly increases lifetime due to temperature control.”

Nike prototype cooling vest• A prototype cooling vest developed by the Nike Sport Research Lab made its public debut at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., earlier this month. Scorching heat and high humidity marked the tennis tournament's later rounds, prompting players to do whatever they could to stay cool. Rafael Nadal, right, was among the players seen wearing the vest courtside. The form-fitting vest features four cooling packs -- two in the front and two in the back -- to quickly cool down players between sets and before and after matches. Nike declined to answer questions about the vest, but it appears similar to phase change vests already on the market, including versions made by TechNiche and Glacier Tek.

Peli BioThermal, the temperature-controlled packaging company, has opened a service center in Indianapolis. The company says the 50,000-square-foot facility will be one of the largest in Peli's Credo on Demand network.

Registration is open for the next ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, to be held in Denver, Colo., July 8-10, 2019. The 10th annual conference and technology showcase will "bring together experts from different technical disciplines and professional communities to think about America’s energy challenges in new and innovative ways." 

• Australian energy storage startup 1414 Degrees began trading on the Australian Securities Exchange last week after raising $16.3 million AUS as part of its initial public offering. The company's technology stores electricity as thermal energy by heating an melting containers full of silicon at a fraction of the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

NETenergy, a Chicago startup that licenses technology developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, plans to commercialize its hybrid air-conditioning system with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The $500,000 grant was awarded to NETenergy's partner, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The International Copper Association and Ingersoll-Rand are commercial partners on the grant, which will provide cash and in-kind matching funds. The technology uses phase change composites to store cold energy, allowing customers to shift A/C production to off-peak hours, when electricity is cheaper. 

• Costs for U.S. chemical distributors could rise by nearly $1.3 billion if the United States imposes tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from China, according to an analysis by John Dunham & Associates. Job losses could top 5,900, the analysis said.

PCM-equipped heat exchanger designed for use in reefer trucks, cold rooms

Ben Welter - Friday, September 14, 2018

A new PCM application turned up in my LinkedIn feed this week:

"Pluss Advanced Technologies Pvt. Ltd. presents ThermoTab active plates used for both #coldstorages and #transportation applications at India Cold Chain Show 2018" ... "Enabling last mile connectivity with fuel free refrigeration."

Vishnu SasidharanThe post offered plenty of hashtags but not much information. I asked Vishnu Sasidharan, right, vice president for new product initiatives at Pluss, for details on the thermoTab Active heat exchanger.

Q: Who developed the thermoTab Active heat exchanger and when was it introduced commercially?

A: "The thermoTab Active heat exchangers are being sourced from FIC, Italy, a company which is has been manufacturing heat exchangers for thermal energy storage in refrigerated vehicles since 1951. Pluss has partnered with FIC to offer complete solution – PCM-filled heat exchangers exclusively in India – introduced commercially in India from September 2017. The partnership leverages FIC & Pluss strength in heat exchanger and material sciences respectively to offer solutions for storage, transportation and space cooling/heating."

Q: What types of PCM are used? (salt hydrate, thermal energy capacity, peak melt point ranges, etc.)

A: "The current standardized offerings are for two categories of temperature; +2 to +8 deg C and -15 to -25 deg C. The plates offered on the basis heat load capacities and the categories under which it falls. For instance, if a customer requires 20kw-Hr of thermal storage capacity for +2 to +8 deg C the number of plates, the customer could refer to the datasheet and choose the combination of thermoTab Active plates based on its capacity. Alternatively, the datasheet also provides with a quick selection of number of thermoTab Active plates based on the volume of the container, insulation thickness and the retention hours required." 

Q: Describe how the heat exchanger functions.

Pluss thermoTab Active plateA: "The heat exchanger plates have a refrigerant coil inside. The PCM filled inside the plate remains completely immersed in the PCM solution. During charging or freezing cycle begins when refrigerant is passed through the coil at a temperature lower than the phase change point of PCM. When the temperature in the room starts to rise above the phase change point of the PCM, the surface of the heat exchangers starts to release the energy at a constant temperature, thereby maintaining the temperature of the environment."

Q: How and when are the PCM panels charged in a refrigerator truck?

A: "The thermoTab Active plates are charged by means of an electric refrigeration system on board the truck. Prior to commencement of the delivery cycle, the truck’s refrigeration system is connected to a three-phase electric source for 8-10 hours. The cost of storing energy by electricity as against active cooling using diesel the savings are substantial. The payback for such system is less than six months."

Q: How and when are the PCM panels charged in a micro cold room?

A: "In a micro cold room as well the charging takes place similar to a refrigerator truck. However, the operating cost could be further reduced by running the refrigerator unit using solar instead of grid electricity. The thermoTab Active plates provides a unique value proposition for solar based micro cold room by enabling 24/7 uninterrupted cooling without the requirement of an electrochemical battery. Most micro cold rooms operate in areas which do not have access to electricity."

Q: How does thermoTab Active differ from passive PCM systems used in reefer trucks and cold rooms?

A: "Passive PCM systems depend on a centralized freezing unit. This makes the process cumbersome for the user as the PCM modules/cartridges need to be constantly removed from the container to a freezer unit and back. It also results in temperature losses due to exposure to ambient temperature during the loading and unloading of PCM modules."

Q: How many refrigerator trucks are using the system?

A: "In India over 250 refrigerator trucks are using this system."

Q: How many micro cold units are using the system?

A: "In India approximately 60 micro cold rooms are using this system. The demand is immense and we believe the application is now beginning to transition from early stage to maturity in terms of market reach."

Q: Is the product available outside India?

A: "It is also available in Africa and southeast Asia."