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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: Revised version of EU energy directive approved; va-Q-tec signs partnership deal with Unitrans

Ben Welter - Monday, April 23, 2018

• The European Parliament has approved a revised version of the Energy Performance of Buildings directive. The directive aims to reinforce efficiency in the building sector, which accounts for about 40 percent of energy use in Europe. 

• 1414 Degrees is installing a 25MWh demonstration of its silicon-based thermal energy storage system at a poultry processing plant in Australia. 

• New market research from 99Strategy: "Global Micro-capsule Phase Change Composite Material Market 2018-2023: Industry Overview, Segment, Type, Application, Competition, Demand, Price"

• Thermal materials specialist va-Q-tec has signed a partnership deal with Unitrans Ltd. of Japan. Unitrans will begin offering temperature-control box fulfillment services in Osaka in June, expanding va-Q-tec's global distribution network. 

• The technical program at ASHRAE's annual conference in Houston June 23-27 includes a session on "Principles and Practices of Thermal Energy Storage Systems for Air Conditioning."

• On the list of short courses available at the American Oil Chemists' Society annual meeting and expo in Minneapolis May 6-9: "Fundamentals of Oils and Fats Crystallization" (Alejandro Marangoni, University of Guelph) and "Improving the Bottom Line of Oils and Fats Refining" (Ken Carlson, RBD Technologies Inc.). 

Nagpur traffic officer wearing a cooling vest• Traffic cops in Nagpur, India, are beating the heat with cooling vests that contain phase change material, Nagpur Today reports. At a glance, though, the thin vests [right] appear to rely mostly on evaporative cooling. 

• Cold chain solutions provider Cryopak is now offering deterministic container closure integrity testing methods at the company's testing center in Edison, N.J. The methods will be used on flexible packaging, sealed containers and other packaging systems. 

• Working in collaboration with Glaciem Cooling Technologies, the University of South Australia has completed work on a new refrigerated cooling system for the hospitality industry. The PCM-based system was installed at the Bend Motorsport Park in Tailem Bend, Australia. Glaciem's ThermCOLD system uses a salt-based phase change material to store thermal energy, allowing refrigeration plants to run and store energy during off-peak periods, when electricity rates are lower, and then release energy during peak periods. 

• Scientists at England's University of Portsmouth have accidentally created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drink bottles. "The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans," the Guardian reports. "But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process."

Ecozen Solutions of India, which makes portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, is among 12 organizations shortlisted for the 2018 International Ashden Awards. The system's thermal storage unit can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather.

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 ...

PCM briefing: A call for papers on energy storage for building applications; Peli BioThermal introduces CoolPall Flex

Ben Welter - Sunday, March 18, 2018

Energy and Buildings has issued a call for papers for a special issue on energy storage for building applications. Topics include "bio-inspired, bio-based, and bio-replicated storage materials and systems," "storage-based systems for mitigating indoor-outdoor microclimate" and "smart, multipurpose, multifunctional materials for sensible and latent thermal energy storage in buildings." Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza of the University of Lleida is among the issue's guest editors. Papers will be accepted between May 1 and July 31. Original manuscripts only.

Nebuma of Saarbrücken, Germany, has introduced a thermal energy storage system that can store around 16MWh of heat in a 20-foot container. The company says the blocks or granules in the tanks can be heated to up to 1,300ºC “with an efficiency that is second to none."

CoolPall FlexPeli BioThermal unveiled a new addition to its range of bulk temperature-control shippers this week at Clinical Trial Supply Europe in Milan. The CoolPall Flex is available in three heights with a capacity range of 140 to 767 liters. Options include standard insulation or vacuum insulated panels and water-based or PCM coolants in single or double coolant configurations. 

Harvard University's new district energy facility will feature the largest thermal storage tank in Massachusetts. The 1.3-million-gallon tank will store chilled water that will be used to cool buildings. It will also support some limited research applications.

• New from Pike Research: "Revenue From Net Zero Energy Buildings to Reach $1.3 Trillion by 2035"

• New from HeyReport: "2015-2023 World Micro-capsule Phase Change Composite Material Market Research Report by Product Type, End-User / Application and Regions / Countries

• New from HTF Market Intelligence: "Phase Change Materials Market Overview – Key Futuristic Trends and Competitive Landscape 2023"

• New from Transparency Market Research: "Cold Chain Packaging Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2017 - 2025

Ice Energy has announced the launch of "Keep Your Cool," a free HVAC replacement and energy storage program in Orange County, Calif. Under the program, qualifying businesses are eligible to receive fully installed HVAC and thermal energy storage systems, using Ice Energy’s proprietary Ice Bear unit. The system freezes water at night when demand for power is low. The stored ice is then used during the peak period of the day to provide uninterrupted cooling, using less energy and reducing air conditioning bills by up to 40 percent.

PCM briefing: Thermal storage in focus at Energy Storage Europe; SaltX, Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop insulation paper

Ben Welter - Monday, March 12, 2018

• "Life Cycle Assessment of Thermal Energy Storage Materials, Components and System Concepts" (Björn Nienborg, Fraunhofer ISE) and "Development of PCM Based on the Prediction of Phase Diagrams of Salt Hydrate Mixtures" (Christoph Rathgeber, ZAE Bayern) are among more than a dozen presentations on thermal storage at this week's Energy Storage Europe expo and conference in Düsseldorf, Germany.

• The energy storage company SaltX Technology will collaborate with specialty paper producer Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop a large-scale manufacturing method for graphene-coated insulation paper. The paper will carry SaltX's patented nano coated salt, increasing the heat conductivity of the SaltX material by up to five times. 

• The March 2018 issue of the CIBSE Journal features a continuing professional development module sponsored by Monodraught: "Operating and enhancing PCM-cooled ventilation systems in office applications.

• New from Persistence Market Research: "Advanced Phase Change Material (PCM) Market - Global Industry Analysis and Forecast to 2020" and "Global Insulated Shipping Containers Market Research Report 2018"

• New from QYResearch: "Global Molten Salt Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Industry 2018 Market Research Report"

• Registration is open for an Industrial Fabrics Association International webinar on recent smart fabric applications used in a number of government, commercial, medical and consumer market segments. The cost for the March 15 webinar, initially presented in January, is $29 for association members, $79 for non-members. 

Arizona State University researchers have shed new light on the anomalous properties of water, using specially treated water mixed with another chemical. "As they changed the temperature at high pressures," Gizmodo reports, "they noticed a sharp change in the water's molecular behaviour as it seemed to change phases - from a liquid to a liquid."  

• The first Lego blocks made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugar cane will go on sale later this year. Lego’s current blocks are made from oil-based plastics.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking bids to replace a chiller at the department's Washington, D.C., headquarters. The chiller was originally installed in 1995 to make ice at night for a thermal energy storage system.

Sunamp Ltd. is among 35 finalists preparing to pitch to investors at Cleantech Innovate in London on March 20.

GTI, a not-for-profit research organization based in Illinois, has been invited to present its hybrid solar energy system project at ARPA-E's Congressional Showcase March 12. The system stores thermal energy in inert particles for on-demand use.

Axiotherm joins RAL Quality Association PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, March 01, 2018

Axiotherm GmbH of Germany has joined the RAL Quality Association PCM, a European-based organization established in 2004 to develop standards for the phase change material industry.

Axiotherm, a subsidiary of ESDA Technologie GmbH, specializes in developing macro-encapsulation of phase change materials for various applications. The company's HeatSel capsule, for example, is designed to increase the capacity of water-based heat and cold storage systems.

Dirk Buttner at Swiss TES symposium, January 2018Dirk Büttner, Axiotherm's chief research officer, said the European Commission recently recognized HeatSel's market potential.

"Out of 135 applications in the Horizon 2020 SME's energy category, the Hi-ThermCap project proposal was rated with the highest score and thus ranks first among the most innovative ideas in Europe," said Büttner, right. "Within the scope of the project Axiotherm is now also striving for validation by an external testing of their products performed by one of the association’s monitoring institutes, ZAE or ISE."

Croda International, which is working with Axiotherm on thermal energy storage applications, is also a member of the association. Other members are Microtek Laboratories, Rubitherm, EMCO, va-Q-tec, PCM Technology, Global Energy Systems Europe, Sasol, Sunamp Ltd., Pluss Advanced Technologies and Entropy Solutions.

The association held its semiannual meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Thursday. Crystal Air PCM Ltd. was invited as a guest but had to cancel because of severe weather in Ireland. The company will be invited to make a presentation at RAL's next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 15, 2018, in Düsseldorf.

Phase Change Energy Solutions CEO joins Conservation Solutions of Boston

Ben Welter - Sunday, February 25, 2018

Joseph A. Grzyb, CEO at Phase Change Energy Solutions since 2015, has left PCES to join Dan Cook as a partner at Conservation Solutions Corp.

Joseph A. GrzybBoston-based CSC provides corporate customers with energy and water conservation solutions, including PCM products from Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C.

"CSC has been a leading distributor of products from Phase Change Energy Solutions for several years," Grzyb, right, wrote in an e-mail sent late Friday to companies involved in the recent formation of the PCM Industry Association of North America. "My focus at the firm is to expand the business and provide engineered PCM solutions to companies across North America."

Gryzb was elected president of the PCM association in October. The association's mission is to promote the development and use of phase change material in North America.  

"I would be pleased to continue in the role of president until our next association meeting later this year (date TBD)," he wrote in Friday's email. "I propose that during our next meeting, we have a new vote for association president."

Jan Kosny, the association's executive director, expressed confidence that association work will continue "without any disturbance," since Grzyb plans to serve as president until the next annual meeting. 

Ice Energy buys back program to distribute 1,800 commercial ice batteries

Ben Welter - Friday, February 16, 2018

Ice Energy, the California company that partnered with NRG Energy a year ago to install up to 1,800 behind-the-meter ice batteries in commercial buildings in Orange County, has bought back the program. Payment terms were not disclosed. In an e-mail interview, Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins explained the strategic shift.

Q: What spurred your decision to buy back the program?

A: NRG was the owner of the program but they decided to divest all their renewables including this project. We bought the project back from NRG last month and are financing it ourselves. We have almost 1800 Ice Bears available but are in discussions with several major property owners who will start taking down large chunks.

Q: The agreement with NRG called for the installation of up to 1,800 Ice Bear 30s, providing a total of up to 25.6 MW of peak storage capacity to Southern California Edison under 20-year power purchase agreements. How long was the NRG program active, and how many Ice Bears were installed?

A: During most of the time NRG owned the program, it was on hold due to regulatory delays. The delays were caused by requests for re-hearings and court appeals unrelated to our program, which was part of a much larger procurement by SCE that included a controversial gas peaker. The program got the regulatory green light last March, but that more or less coincided with NRG’s move out of renewables, which effectively kept the program on hold. As a result, only a few units for the City of Tustin were installed.

Ice Bear 30Q: Can you share performance data on the Ice Bears installed through the NRG agreement?

A: The Ice Bears installed for the City of Tustin have performed like the other 1200 or so units in operation – better than 98% availability which is better than any other storage technology, or grid asset for that matter.

Q: Can you name commercial property owners that participated in the Ice Bear program through NRG?

A: In addition to the City of Tustin who had their Ice Bears installed during NRG’s ownership of the program, the following commercial property owners signed up during NRG’s ownership and will now have their Ice Bears installed by us:

• A global bank
• John Wayne Airport
• Marconi Auto Museum
• Medical Eye Services
• 7 Diamonds

Q: Can you name any of the major property owners you're now in talks with?

A: We're in ongoing discussions and identifying initial target sites with the largest Orange County real estate developers and property management firms.

Q: Will the program change in any significant way under Ice Energy's direction?

A: Yes, under Ice Energy's direction we're able to respond more quickly and tailor our offering to meet individual customer needs. To accelerate adoption, for a limited period of time, Ice Energy is offering new participants free HVAC replacement in addition to free Ice Bears. We are also now able to work more efficiently with our utility partner on this program through our direct interaction. The end result of these changes is more units placed more quickly to more customers.

Q: When will the first units be installed?

A: The first installations under our ownership of the program will be next month which will be the beginning of almost three years of installing Ice Bears under our program. Once installed, the Ice Bears will then provide OC participants 20 years of utility bill savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

PCM briefing: Croda merger talks reported; RAL PCM members to meet March 1

Ben Welter - Monday, February 12, 2018

• British specialty chemicals maker Croda International Plc has held unsuccessful talks with Ashland Global Holdings Inc. about a possible merger, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.

Croda recently redesigned the CrodaTherm website, www.crodatherm.com. The new site offers improved navigation and searchability, a wider range of potential PCM applications and profiles of the CrodaTherm technical team. Visitors can register to log in and download datasheets and order samples. "We are excited to launch this new website, making it even easier for our customers to find us and the products they need," said Graeme Tweddle, global managing director for energy technologies at Croda.

• Members of the RAL Quality Association PCM, a European-based organization established in 2004 to develop standards for the phase change material industry, will meet in Düsseldorf, Germany, on March 1. On the agenda: Quality and testing specifications; improvements to the association's website; member content on the BUILD UP Web portal; promotion of PCMs in the European Union, Germany, Netherlands and the United States; and registration of RAL quality marks.   

Sonoco ThermoSafe is accepting registrations for the company's first Leading Minds Seminar, to be held June 6-7 in Philadelphia. Co-hosted by ELPRO, the seminar is a chance for pharmaceutical manufacturers, supply chain partners and government representatives to discuss temperature-assurance packaging and data monitoring in a collaborative environment. Day two includes a visit to ThermoSafe's design and testing lab in Montgomeryville, Penn.

Sonoco is No. 90 on Barron's inaugural list of "The 100 Most Sustainable Companies." 

• A "measurement and verification study" of a Viking Cold Solutions TES system installed in a 320-square-foot walk-in freezer at a supermarket in Fremont, Calif., showed an 18 percent net reduction in energy consumption.   

• The deadline is Monday, Feb. 12, to submit a concept paper for ARPA-E's OPEN 2018 competition. Up to $100 million is available for new projects that "transform the way we generate, store and use energy."

DLR Group, which part of a public-private collaboration working to develop PCM-based cooling and heating methods for Agua Fria Canyon View High School, has been named one of Arizona's "40 Companies to Watch" in 2018 by AZRE magazine. 

• Entries are being accepted for Bio-Based World News' 2018 Innovation Awards. The four categories are product of the year, chemical innovation of the year, best use of alternative feedstocks and industry story of the year. The entry deadline is Feb. 23. Winners will be honored March 20 at the World Bio Markets conference in Amsterdam. 

• Nantucket, Mass., has approved the installation of an Ice Bear thermal storage and air-conditioning unit in a building owned by the town. Last summer, Genbright won a $1.5 million grant from the state to install the units in more than 200 Nantucket homes, with the goal of reducing peak energy demand and staving off the need for a third undersea power cable for the island. But some residents voiced skepticism about the technology, prompting the town board to approve the test installation.

• Shippers have found that cocoa butter can be hard to contain on long ocean voyages. There have been reports of the material leaking out of containers as it changes phase, clogging bilges and generally making a mess. The Cargo Incident Notification System, established in 2011 to share information on all cargo-related incidents, has issued guidelines that recommend the material be shipped in refrigerated containers, particularly when passing through hot climate zones. 

PCM briefing: Israeli startup introduces IceBrick; Ulster University launches energy storage research project

Ben Welter - Monday, February 05, 2018

Nostromo Energy of Israel has introduced the IceBrick, an energy storage system designed to store and discharge an amount of energy equivalent to 25 kWh of electricity consumed by cooling systems at peak demand hours. The 2,000-pound IceBrick contains plain water and a proprietary nucleate.

• A new report from Environment New York, an advocacy organization, says rising renewable energy production means that energy storage is ready for prime time. Thermal storage, utility-scale batteries and pumped-storage hydro are among the technologies discussed in the report, "Making Sense of Energy Storage: How Storage Technologies Can Support a Renewable Energy Future."

Ulster University of Northern Ireland has announced 6.7-million-euro cross-border research project to develop energy storage ideas for consumers. The European Union-funded project will explore energy storage methods such as thermochemical material storage and heat pump design. 

• The European Parliament has voted in favor of a proposal that would remove palm oil-based biodiesel from the European Union's list of renewable fuels by 2021. Indonesia and Malaysia, two of the world’s largest palm oil producers, have been increasingly critical of EU’s plans to phase out palm oil biodiesel, with both countries threatening retaliation in trade and taking the matter to the World Trade Organization.

• A CALMAC thermal energy storage system has helped Kings County Courthouse in Hanford, Calif., achieve LEED Silver Certification and reduce annual energy costs by more than $100,000. 

AkzoNobel is accepting submissions for its 2018 Imagine Chemistry initiative. The company's specialty chemicals unit is seeking to partner with startups and academics to bring innovative ideas to market.

• New in 2018: Membership in the American Oil Chemists' Society now includes free online access to three AOCS publications: the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society; the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents; and Lipids.

Pluss Advanced Technologies of India, maker of the MiraCradle neonate cooler, has signed a collaboration agreement with Dräger, a German-based medical and safety technology company, to spread use of the PCM-enabled device in Asia and Africa.

• Netherland's Eindhoven University of Technology has openings for three Ph.D. positions involved in the study of crystal hydrate heat storage.  

• A Spanish university that has developed new biobased phase change materials with enhanced thermal properties is looking for industrial partners interested in a technical cooperation or a license agreement. 

PCM briefing: va-Q-tec opens North American headquarters; Viking Cold Solutions begins Phoenix-area installation

Ben Welter - Friday, January 19, 2018

• PCM maker va-Q-tec AG officially opened its new North American headquarters in Langhorne, Penn., this week. Va-Q-tec will use the 20,000-square-foot facility to showcase new products and to manufacture its small temperature-control shipping containers. The location will also serve as a hub for the company's rental and repair operation. “The investment in this new facility is a testament to our commitment to grow the business and expand our footprint in North America," said CEO Dr. Joachim Kuhn.

Drones that deliver sterile mosquitoes in the fight against the Zika virus will be field tested in Latin America early this year. The system, developed by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture's Insect Pest Control Laboratory, uses phase change material to keep the mosquitoes inactive during transportation. 

• New from Greentech Media: "The Next Five Years in Energy Storage According to 500 Energy Professionals"

• New from Global Info Research: "North America Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Market by Manufacturers, Countries, Type and Application, Forecast to 2022"

• New from Technavio: "Global Advanced Phase Change Materials Market 2017-2021

Viking Cold Solutions has begun installing its PCM-based thermal energy storage system in a 10,000-square-foot freezer at the Bashas food distribution center in the Phoenix area. The system, which consists of salt-hydrate-filled panels suspended from warehouse ceilings, is designed to significantly reduce energy costs by shifting peak demand to nighttime hours.

• The cost of renewable energy is falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity than fossil fuels by 2020, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency

Utility Dive takes a close look at Nantucket Island's "hybrid" plan to add energy storage, including thermal storage, to stave off expensive grid enhancements.