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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 briefing: Shipping costs rise for chemical companies; Inventure to build plant in China

Ben Welter - Saturday, August 11, 2018

Viking Cold Solutions founder and board chairman Paul Robbins, who retired as president at Caribbean Shipping Services in July, says he plans to resume a more active role in the day-to-day operations at Viking. The Houston company makes TES systems that pair phase change material with intelligent controls and remote energy-monitoring software to reduce commercial refrigeration costs.  

Chemical Week reports that shipping costs are on the rise for chemical companies as capacity tightens and truck traffic shifts to railroads.  

Inventure Renewables of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is partnering with Wilmar International and Desmet Ballestra Group on a new manufacturing plant in China's Jiangsu province, the Birmingham Business Journal reports. Construction is expected to begin in 2019. The plant will use Inventure’s soap carbonate technology to convert low-value processing residues into uncontaminated free fatty acids.

Maurizio ZaglioMaurizio Zaglio‎, right, international business development manager at Sunamp Ltd., was in Hangzhou, China, this week to present the company's new products at the 2018 China Heat Pump Annual Conference.

• New from Research and Markets: "Phase Change Materials (PCMs) - A Global Market Overview"

ARPA-E has issued a funding opportunity of up to $35 million for the High Intensity Thermal Exchange through Materials and Manufacturing Processes program, to develop new approaches and technologies for the design and manufacture of high-temperature, high-pressure, and highly compact heat exchangers. 

• The American Chemistry Council confirmed this week that high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is on the list of U.S. petrochemicals and plastics targeted for $16 billion in retaliatory tariffs from China. "Prospects of trade war are eroding business confidence from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," says the ACC's Kevin Swift. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 2.4 percent in 2019, Morningstar reports, but economists have cut the average forecast for 2020 from 2 percent to 1.8 percent. 

PCM briefing: va-Q-tec opens Uruguay office; U.S. Army issues RFQ for 'cooling radio vest'

Ben Welter - Monday, August 06, 2018

• A bipartisan bill promoting innovation in sustainable chemistry was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate last week. The bill is sponsored by Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Chris Coons, D-Del. Collins said the legislation "would create a coordinated national effort to support research and development in the sustainable chemistry field; provide grants, training, and educational opportunities for scientists and engineers; and support American jobs by maintaining our nation’s scientific leadership." 

• PCM maker va-Q-tec AG is expanding its international presence with a new Latin American head office and operations facility in Montevideo, Uruguay. The new site will function as a hub for va-Q-tec’s pharma shipper rental service.

Sener and Acciona Industrial have begun the salt melting process at the 100MW Kathu concentrated solar power plant in South Africa's Northern Cape Province. The molten salt will be used to store heat from the solar field for up to 4.5 hours. The heat can be recovered later to produce steam and generate electricity.

• In response to a U.S. threat to raise a proposed tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent, China has threatened to impose tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods.

• The U.S. Army is seeking proposals for a "cooling radio vest" that uses phase change material to keep the wearer at a comfortable 72 degrees F. The vest must include two radio pockets, a cell phone pocket, two utility pockets and space for a hydration panel. The list of requirements also specifies: "Cooling elements are a non-gel. Non ice mil spec aluminum packet consisting of a phase change material measuring 4.5" x 2.6" x 0.3." The deadline for proposals is Aug. 13. One other detail: Just 22 units are needed. 

PCM briefing: Brookins confirmed as Alexium CEO; palmitic acid, stearic acid on U.S. tariff list

Ben Welter - Monday, July 16, 2018

Dr. Robert BrookinsAlexium International has appointed Dr. Robert Brookins, right, as chief executive officer and managing director of the company. Brookins, formerly executive vice president of research and development, was appointed interim CEO in May, replacing Dirk Van Hyning, who resigned for personal reasons. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

Palmitic acid, stearic acid and their salts and esters are on a list of more than 6,000 items on which the United States may impose additional import tariffs in its escalating trade war with China.

Two top executives at Wilmar International have stepped down after Greenpeace published a report linking the world's largest palm oil trading company to a supplier accused of deforestation.

Active Energy Systems, a clean-tech startup in Tennessee, is developing an electro-thermal energy storage system that will use waste heat generated by data centers, industrial complexes, institutions and power plants to store and distribute energy more efficiently and cheaply than systems using conventional batteries. "Using power from the grid at off-peak times," Venture Nashville Connections reports, "the process transforms water into ice -- spraying it through an oil layer, which allows the water to freeze but not stick to a submerged heat exchanger. Instead, it forms pellets resembling Dippin' Dots ice cream, [co-founder Mitch] Ishmael said. Then the cycle operates in reverse, using waste heat to melt the ice and generate electricity back to the grid."

• New from Research Mentor:" Global Phase Change Material (PCM) Market will be Worth USD 770.1 Million by 2023"

• New from Questale: "Global Eutectic Phase Change Material Market Research Report 2018"

• "What are some new trends in solar energy research and development in 2018?" a Quora member asked recently. Three answers were posted. The one provided by Yogi Goswami, director of the University of South Florida's Clean Energy Research Center, got more than 120 "upvotes" and was picked up by Forbes magazine. Goswami discussed the strengths and weaknesses of two competing technologies: photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. He expressed confidence that CSP will eventually become commercially competitive because it has two big advantages over PV: "It uses the same thermal power conversion as the conventional thermal power (fossil fuel or nuclear based) and can therefore be integrated with the existing power infra-structure easily" and it "uses thermal energy storage which is about one-tenth the cost of battery storage."

PCM briefing: Neck collar uses Outlast to keep wearer cool; thermally responsive bandage heals wounds quickly

Ben Welter - Monday, June 25, 2018

A new neck collar designed for people living with motor neurone disease features Outlast phase change technology to keep the wearer cool. The Heads Up collar supports the collection of small muscles in the neck that are vulnerable to the wasting effects of the disease.

• A Northwestern University team has developed a thermally responsive bandage that quickly heals painful, hard-to-treat sores in people with diabetes. The bandage features a hydrogel that rapidly solidifies when exposed to body temperature, conforming to the shape of the wound.

• In the short term, analysts say crude palm oil prices have likely hit rock bottom. But a Rabobank analyst is projecting reduced production - and higher prices - from 2022 to 2025. 

•  A call for papers has been issued for the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference Europe, to be held in Strasbourg, France, Jan. 27-31, 2019. "Thermal modeling" and "preventing thermal runaway" are among the topics. The deadline for priority consideration is June 29.

Emily Liu, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office to receive a $1.8 million award to study high-temperature molten-salt properties and corrosion mechanisms.

Dr. Robert Brookins, interim CEO at Alexium International Group Ltd., will present an hourlong webinar, "Phase Change Materials: How Can They Help Set Your Company Apart," on June 28. The free event is sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Association International.  

• Swedish solar company Azelio has launched a demonstrator of its solar energy storage technology. The system uses an aluminum alloy as a thermal storage material. 

In a new directive, the European Commission is calling for at least 32 percent of total EU energy use to come from renewable sources by 2030. The directive, which will require the formal approval of the European Parliament, sets specific annual targets for cooling and heating installations. 

• The agenda is taking shape for the 13th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 1-2 in Bern, Switzerland. Topics include "Energy buffering with phase change materials" and "Thermal performance of phase change materials for the building skin."

Va-Q-tec AG is expanding its Kölleda location in Thuringia, Germany. The company manufactures vacuum isolation panels, phase change materials and passive thermal packaging systems at two plants there.

• MIT Technology Review reports that Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent company) appears to be in talks to spin out Project Malta, a molten-salt energy storage project, in a transaction involving Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ $1 billion investment fund.

Alexium says it's working to establish wide acceptance of new testing protocol

Ben Welter - Friday, June 08, 2018

Alexium International Group Ltd. announced in April that it had developed an "innovative thermal analytical testing methodology" to measure the cooling capacity of PCM-enhanced products used in pillows, sheets and mattresses.

Alexium interim CEO Robert BrookinsAlexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments. Dr. Robert Brookins, Alexium’s executive vice president of research and development and newly appointed interim CEO, responded to questions about the new protocol this week.

Q: Your company's news release (https://alexiuminternational.com/8401-2/) says the protocol allows for "facile adoption by the industry." Is a detailed description of the protocol publicly available, so that results can be replicated and a new industry standard established? 

A: "At this point, the protocol has been openly shared with people in the industry, and Alexium has educated them on how to use this method. This work has been in conjunction with our customers. For more general usage, Alexium is working to introduce this as a formal test method through a standards organization."

Q: What retail pillows were evaluated (by type, if not by brand)? Do they contain microencapsulated phase change materials? 

A: "All of the pillows were purchased from general retail stores and were all based on the application of the PCM to a textile component. Based on the marketing included with the pillows and the apparent method of application, microencapsulated phase change materials were used on all of these. To clarify, none of the products specifically stated that PCMs were used."

Q: What is the MPCM load in each of the four Alexium-treated pillows shown in the chart? 

A: "We supply the analytical data as a testament to performance, but do not provide public information about the specific MPCM loading for products treated with our products."

Q: Are the four Alexium-treated pillows commercially available, as tested?

A: "These products represent four models that have gone into full production for commercialization by our customers."

Q: How do the results you obtained compare to other known methods used for quantifying cooling capacity, such as ASTM Standard D7984?

A: "We have used D7984 to test fabrics treated with different levels of PCM and found that MTPS provides no meaningful data. For this reason, Alexium undertook the work to develop this new test method. Based on our research, ASTM D7984 is effective for thermal effusivity and by our assessment provides insight related to sensible heat transfer; however, due to the test protocol for D7984, the thermal properties due to latent heat (i.e., PCM) are not effectively tested by that method. For our work, established DSC protocols were used as the starting place for the new method, because DSC has proven very effective at studying PCM-based materials."

Q: Do you use the DSC to measure the treated fabric’s thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity, so you can calculate the thermal effusivity?

A: "Our method is used to measure the latent heat absorbed by the PCM-treated fabric. This is important because this is the basis of the cooling effects provided by the PCM. The critical advance made with this test method is adapting established DSC methods so that they can be used reliably with PCM-treated textiles. We believe that building on an established test method is critical for the wide spread acceptance of this method."

Alexium International CEO Dirk Van Hyning resigns

Ben Welter - Friday, June 01, 2018

Alexium International Group Ltd. said its chief executive officer, Dirk Van Hyning, resigned this week for personal reasons. He was appointed CEO in June 2017.

Robert Brookins, Alexium’s executive vice president of research and development, has been appointed interim CEO. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

In April, Alexium announced that it had developed an "innovative thermal analytical testing methodology" to measure the cooling capacity of PCM-enhanced products used on pillows, sheets and mattresses.

In an April 23 news release, the company said:

"Alexium developed a testing protocol using a standard industry tool to quantify the cooling capacity, or enthalpic cooling, of PCM products when applied to pillows and other bedding fabrics. As a result, using this testing protocol, pillows treated with Alexium’s Alexicool PCM solution were shown to deliver over 500% greater cooling capacity than commercially available pillows treated with other PCM products.

"Testing was conducted on microencapsulated octadecane-based PCM in a controlled lab environment using a differential scanning calorimetry method developed by Alexium scientists with a TA Instrument DSC 250. The method was developed to be applicable across a wide range of fiber composition, fabric construction, and types of PCM." 

Alexium said the protocol allows for "facile adoption by the industry." But the company has not responded to questions about whether a detailed description of the protocol would be made public so that results can be replicated and a new industry standard established. It is not clear how the protocol compares to other known methods used for quantifying cooling capacity, such as ASTM Standard D7984.

PCM briefing: BASF to spend $2.2 billion on R&D; Sunamp heat batteries qualify for Scottish loan program

Ben Welter - Monday, May 14, 2018

Chemical & Engineering News reports that the top 50 U.S. chemical producers generated $285.4 billion in chemical revenues in 2017, a 9.4 percent increase over 2016. 

• Under its new CEO, Martin Brüdermüller, BASF is planning to pour $2.2 billion into research and development, making BASF the second-highest investor in innovation in the chemicals sector after DuPont

Grace HsiaWarmilu LLC founder Grace Hsia, right, is on Crain's 20 in Their 20s list honoring Michigan's rising young leaders. Warmilu makes a PCM-equipped infant warming blanket.   

Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., has raised $7.6 million in Series A funding, for a total of $12.5 million raised to date. The round was co-led by GXP Investments and Shell Ventures. Axiom's PCM-based "refrigeration battery" is designed to reduce energy supermarket energy costs. 

Sunamp Ltd. is applauding the Scottish government's decision to include heat batteries to its Home Energy Scotland Loan program. Homeowners and private landlords are now eligible to apply for an interest-free loan of up to 6,000 pounds to install Sunamp's PCM-based heat battery systems.

• Albuquerque-based SAVSU Technologies is launching two new high-performance shipping containers branded as Evo Extreme. The containers are designed for the 2-8C and -80C temperature ranges.

Emirates District Cooling has won a contract to supply a district cooling system to the Expo Dubai 2020 event. The system will have a capacity of 60,000 tons of refrigeration. 

• Georg Rodriguez, managing director at MUTZ Engineering mbH, will present a free lecture, presumably in German, on "phase change materials for temperature management and energy storage in buildings" on Tuesday, May 15, at the KEBAB lecture room in Berlin.

Polar Bear thermal storage system installed at California winery

Ben Welter - Monday, May 14, 2018

Ice Energy's newest ice-based thermal energy storage system has its first customer: Wilson Creek Winery of Temecula, Calif.

The Polar Bear, developed at Ice Energy's IdeaLAB in Riverside, is designed to reduce energy costs in supermarkets and other commercial refrigeration systems. Like the company's flagship Ice Bear product, the Polar Bear makes ice during off-peak hours for use in cooling during periods of peak energy demand. 

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins"Wilson Creek Winery [was] an early adopter of Ice Bears to cut their utility bill, and a first adopter of Polar Bears to help them cool their wine-making fermentation process," said Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins. "During the peak hours of the day, the Polar Bears come online and automatically augment the amount of cooling that is provided by the chiller or allow the chiller to either remain on standby/run at part-load, vastly increasing the operating efficiency of the plant."

Hopkins estimated the cost of installing the system in a typical 40,000-square-foot supermarket in Southern California at $40,000, "which would pay for two Polar Bears, fully installed."

Two competitors in the cold storage market, Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., and Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, say their saltwater- and salt-hydrate-based thermal storage systems can reduce a customer's energy costs by up to 40 percent. How does the Polar Bear compare?

"The Polar Bear is uniquely cost effective in reducing peak demand," Hopkins said. "Based on currently utility rates, the Polar Bear has a payback of less than one year in California and about two years in New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut. I am not aware of any energy storage including Axiom or Viking Cold that has paybacks close to ours."

Commercial rollout of the Polar Bear is planned for the fourth quarter of this year. IdeaLAB, meanwhile, is working on a larger-capacity Ice Bear, and the company is developing expansion plans.

"We will be entering markets outside the U.S. through distribution partners this year," Hopkins said. "We are planning to raise capital this summer to support our growth plans."

Cost-savings calculator opens doors to conversations about TES system

Ben Welter - Monday, May 07, 2018

Case studies, white papers, product descriptions and “how it works” videos are effective ways to market thermal energy storage systems. But what potential customers really want to know is: “How much will your system save me?”

Viking Cold Solutions’ new web-based calculator can answer that question.

Viking makes TES systems designed to stabilize temperatures and reduce cold storage energy costs by up to 35 percent. The systems pair phase change material with intelligent controls and remote energy-monitoring software.

“It’s a new technology in an old industry,” said Damon Vance, who joined the Houston company last year as marketing director. “We use the tool as a starting point for conversations about what we could potentially save customers. It just helps open doors and start conversations.”

The calculator, www.vikingcold.com/estimate-energy-savings/calculator, is adapted from a more sophisticated tool used by the company for years to provide customers with detailed estimates of potential savings. The pared-down version asks users to provide freezer square footage, temperature set point, equipment type, condenser type, compressor load control, defrost type and average kWh rate. A summary of the results is displayed in the web browser. The user can fill out a form to get more detailed results.

Vance said several hundred visitors have completed the form since the tool was introduced a few months ago. More than half of requests, he said, have led to “legitimate customer conversations.”

“We’ve got good feedback on it,” he said. “We use it as a sales tool, but it also sets realistic expectations for customers and opens their eyes to the potential of the technology.”

Viking recently installed one of its systems at a Dreisbach Enterprises food warehouse in Richmond, Calif. The system is designed to ensure temperature stability in the freezer space while reducing the electricity demand by over 55 percent for 11 hours each day – from 850 kilowatts to 400 kilowatts – and reducing total electricity consumption in the 93,000-square-foot warehouse by as much as 35 percent.

www.vikingcold.com/estimate-energy-savings/calculator

PCM briefing: Job opening at Axiom Exergy; 1414 Degrees plans IPO

Ben Welter - Monday, May 07, 2018

TJ Rizzo, senior vice president of international operations at Cold Chain Technologies, will give a presentation on "Temperature Excursion Analysis" at the Global Clinical Supplies Group conference in Atlanta April 30.  

• Axiom Exergy, maker of behind-the-meter thermal energy storage systems, has posted an opening for a director of business development.

• Thermal energy storage company 1414 Degrees is planning an initial public offering. The Australian company hopes to raise $30 million to $50 million AUD.

Yusuf Yusufoglu, R&D technology team leader at Arcelik, and Orkun Kaymakçı, R&D specialist at Arcelik, received the "Best PCM Paper Award" at EnerSTOCK 2018 in Turkey this week, according to a LinkedIn post. Their topic: "Application of Phase Change Materials in Household Appliances." I would provide a link to the EnerSTOCK 2018 website for those interested in learning more about the conference, but the site appears to have been hacked; visitors are redirected to a site flagged as "deceptive."

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc. is one of 16 Canadian tech startups selected to participate in the Volta Cohort Pitch Event May 16 in Halifax. Up to five companies will receive $25,000 in investment, mentorship and resources. The Halifax company's electric thermal storage heater is designed to supplement heating systems in residential housing. It takes advantage of time-of-day electricity rates to lower heating costs by up to 50 percent.

• Chicago-based NETenergy is one of 11 energy startups selected to participate in the VERGE Accelerate event in Hawaii in June. The finalists will pitch to a live audience of business leaders, government officials and investors, as well as to a global online audience. 

• New from QY Research: "Global Thermal Energy Storage Systems Market Professional Survey Report 2018" and "Global Temperature Controlled Pharmaceutical Packaging Market Research Report 2018"

• New from HTF Market Report: "Global Cold Chain Equipments Market Research Report 2018"