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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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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"

PCM briefing: Monodraught wins a Queen's Award; Dulas delivers 50 PCM-equipped solar refrigerators to Pakistant

Ben Welter - Monday, April 30, 2018

John Curley, former technical sales manager at Conex Bänninger and Viega Ltd., has rejoined Monodraught Ltd. as technical consultant. 

• Monodraught, of High Wycombe, United Kingdom, won a Queen's Award for Enterprise this week for its Cool-phase system, which provides "intelligent control of ventilation and cooling using phase change materials." Peli BioThermal of Bedfordshire also received a Queen's Award. The temperature-control packaging company was honored for its "export expertise." 

Dulas Ltd. has delivered 50 of its VC110SDD solar-powered refrigerators to Pakistan. The 110-liter refrigerators, accredited by the World Health Organization, use paraffin-based phase change material to keep vaccines at temperatures ranging from 5°C to 43°C. Renewable Energy Magazine reports that the U.K. company has also launched a temperature-monitoring device that can record and transmit the performance of the refrigerators in real time at any location in the world. 

Andrew Michler's MARTaK Passive House in Colorado has been named the overall winner in Green Builder's 10th annual Green Home of the Year Awards. Natural, nontoxic and recycled materials are used throughout the 1,200-square-foot house. Biobased phase change material with a melt point of 23º C is used to help even out temperature spikes. Five hundred square feet of ENRG Blankets made by Phase Change Energy Solutions is installed a south-facing interior wall. 

• The agenda has been released for the next Cold Chain Global Forum, set for Sept. 24-27 in Philadelphia. The lineup includes discussions on "CRT Product Solutions: How Can We Use Phase Change Materials or Water-based Refrigerants to Successfully Ship Compliance Ready Materials?" and "How Can We Achieve Sustainability & Environmental Packaging Designs in Temperature Controlled Packaging?" Also on the agenda are sessions on "Improving Sustainability & Environmental Packaging to Reduce Waste and Ensure Temperature Compliant Packaging Designs" and "Maintaining Temperature Control Distribution with New Reduced Delivery Targets" and a master class, "Certification Program: Life-Cycle Development of Temperature Assurance Packaging." 

Safer Chemicals in Products 2018 will be held in Boston Sept. 17-18. Topics include "Making the Business Case for Safer Chemicals" and "Substitution Strategies in Europe and Canada."

• New from QY Research: "Temperature Controlled Packaging Solutions Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product, By Type, By Region, By Application, Competitive Landscape, And Segment Forecasts 2018-2025"

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.