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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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Ice Cub is now available to California homeowners, builders

Ben Welter - Friday, October 12, 2018

The Ice Cub, Ice Energy's hybrid air-conditioning and thermal energy storage system, is now available for purchase by California homeowners and homebuilders.

The solar PV-compatible unit replaces a conventional 5-ton outdoor condensing unit and is designed to work seamlessly with home HVAC systems. The Ice Cub functions like a typical condensing unit, but it also makes ice to store up to four hours' worth of cooling.

"For homes with solar PV," Ice Energy says, "a full tank of ice can be made and stored during the day, using what would otherwise be surplus solar generation."

The Ice Cub retails for $15,000. But Ice Energy says two government incentives potentially reduce the cost of purchase and installation to below that of a conventional air conditioning system. The Ice Cub qualifies for California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program rebate and, for homes with solar PV, the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. Ice Energy says the payback period for an Ice Cub installed in a California home with solar PV is less than one year.

The company, based in Southern California, says it is in the early stages of recruiting regional project partners such as homebuilders and HVAC installers.

“Conventional AC units in California have become increasingly expensive to operate as the state’s new time-of-use rates take effect,” said Joseph Draper, executive chairman of Ice Energy. “The Ice Cub, by contrast, reduces consumption of expensive electricity and can save homeowners as much as $1,500 a year on their utility bill. The smart, energy-efficient Ice Cub is a true consumer product with real potential to render conventional home AC units obsolete. We are very excited to make it available for immediate delivery to homeowners and builders here in California.”

https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/10/ice-energys-hybrid-air-conditioning-and-energy-storage-system-qualifies-for-itc-with-solar/

PCM briefing: Online master's degree in thermal energy storage; Alexium appoints new CFO

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza• The enrollment period is open for an online master's degree program on thermal energy storage. The program, offered by the University of Lleida and the University of Barcelona, includes "training in technical aspects of TES and the energy system, but it also includes soft skills in patenting and entrepreneurship." The program is directed by Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza of the University of Lleida. 

Siemens Gamesa held a topping-out ceremony this week for its 30MWh electric thermal energy storage facility in Hamburg-Altenwerder, Germany. The pilot facility, which stores energy in 1,000 tons of rock fill at temperatures of 600º C, is in its final phase of construction and due to be fully commissioned in 2019.

• Lauren Boteler, a thermal/packaging engineer for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, has been named Woman Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Electronics Packaging and Photonics Division.

Indonesia has imposed a three-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations and ordered a review of existing ones in an effort to address sustainability and environmental concerns.  

• The U.S. patent system, the first in the world to incentivize large numbers of ordinary citizens to innovate, has long been ranked No. 1 in the world. But over the past few years the system has fallen to 12th. Forbes reports that Andrei Iancu, the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is working to turn that around and "bring about a much-needed revitalization of the American patent system."

Alexium International has appointed Jason Lewis as chief financial officer, succeeding Aaron Krech, who resigned effective Sept. 30. Lewis has over 20 years of experience in financial roles in the specialty chemicals industry. Alexium also announced the appointment of Allen Reihman as chief commercial officer. He will lead the company’s sales, marketing and technology commercialization efforts. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

10 BioPCM products added to USDA BioPreferred catalog

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Phase Change Energy Solutions has joined PureTemp and Croda International in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's BioPreferred catalog. The North Carolina manufacturer has registered 10 of its phase change materials in the program: BioPCM Q4, Q6, Q8, Q15, Q18, Q20, Q23, Q25, Q27 and Q29.

The USDA defines biobased products as finished or intermediate materials composed in whole or in significant part of agricultural, forestry or marine ingredients. The program’s purpose is to increase the purchase and use of biobased products. Products that meet the USDA BioPreferred program requirements carry a distinctive label for easier identification by the consumer.

Reyad Sawafta“BioPCM is now certified with 100% biobased content and listed among the USDA BioPreferred products, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability as we work to meaningfully reduce energy consumption," said Dr. Reyad Sawafta, chief scientific officer at Phase Change Energy Solutions.

Seven CrodaTherm products qualified for the program in 2016. PureTemp first qualified in 2014, and 23 PureTemp formulations are now designated as 100 percent biobased by the program.

Phase change material is not currently one of the 109 categories in the USDA's BioPreferred Program. Phase Change Energy Solutions, Croda and PureTemp became certified through a voluntary labeling initiative. The USDA published a proposal last week to add PCMs as a category of biobased products eligible for procurement preference by federal agencies and their contractors.

The BioPreferred Program was created by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 and expanded by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Under the program, federal agencies are required, with some exceptions, to purchase biobased products within designated product categories when the purchase price of the product exceeds $10,000 or when the quantity of such products or functionally equivalent products purchased over the preceding fiscal year equaled $10,000 or more.

PCM briefing: Energy storage projects get share of $28 million in ARPA-E grants; nominations due Oct. 1 for AOCS awards

Ben Welter - Friday, September 21, 2018

ARPA-E this week awarded $28 million to 10 R&D projects aimed at developing energy storage systems to power the electric grid for up to 100 hours, improving grid resilience and performance. Thermal energy storage projects were among the winners. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory won a $2.79 million grant to “develop a high-temperature, low-cost thermal energy storage system using a high-performance heat exchanger and closed loop Brayton cycle turbine to generate power.” Michigan State University won $2 million to "explore a process that heats a bed of magnesium manganese oxide to release oxygen, and then passes air over the particle bed to start a chemical reaction that releases the heat to drive a gas turbine generator," Greentech Media reported.

Mark Richards, applications engineering manager at Phase Change Energy Solutions, will give a presentation on "Testing and Modeling of Phase Change Materials for Building Applications" at next week's Building Performance Analysis Conference and SimBuild in Chicago.

• Nominations for nine Scientific and Society Awards given by the American Oil Chemists' Society are due Oct. 1. The awards recognize leaders in fats, oils, proteins and surfactants who have advanced the science and technology of their interest areas.

The agenda has been posted for the CSP Madrid 2018 conference and exhibition, to be held Nov. 13-14. Topics include "Advancements in Thermal Storage Systems with Molten Salt" and "Thermal storage + PV, gas or other power generations."

Ember Technologies announced this week that its PCM-equipped coffee mug is now available at Bloomingdale's

• New from Decision Databases: "2018-2023 Global Temperature Controlled Packaging Solutions Market Report

Entropy Solutions has been granted a U.S. trademark for the tagline "Global Authority on Phase Change Material," in use since 2014.  

• How green is your lab? The EU Science Hub invites European Union residents to submit photos that show how to reduce waste, save energy, maximize equipment efficiency or anything else that makes a lab green. Science Hub will post submitted photos on its Facebook page. The entry deadline is Oct. 19. The winning photographer will receive a two-day trip to Berlin to visit the hub's ARTEFACTS exhibition, where the winning photo will be displayed.   

• Children curious about science will have a chance to chat with researchers, observe demonstrations and take part in hands-on experiments at the annual "Science is Wonder-ful!" event Sept. 25-26 in Brussels, Belgium. The event, sponsored by the European Commission and European Parliament, drew 4,600 participants in 2017.

• The United States has removed 142 chemical and plastic products, including paraffin wax, from the latest round of tariffs that it will impose on Chinese imports next week, the American Chemistry Council said Tuesday.

• The Thermal Energy Systems Lab at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has an opening for a post-doctoral researcher to assist in the development of thermal energy storage material and systems. For details, contact Alessandro Romagnoli, a.romagnoli@ntu.edu.sg. "We are looking for an expert on industrial energy efficiency with capabilities to run exergy/energy analysis, skills with flow diagrams (e.g. Sankey) and well grounded in current and future technology development," Romagnoli said. "This is a short-term appointment (either full time or part-time)." 

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."

ThermAvant's new coffee mug is designed to get the 'burn' out faster

Ben Welter - Monday, August 27, 2018

ThermAvant Technologies, which introduced the temperature-regulating Lexo travel tumbler in 2016, introduced a new mug this summer called Burnout. The new model is designed to cool hot beverages to a drinkable temperature of 140 degrees F within minutes and keep it there for hours.

ThermAvant founder Bill Ma, an engineering professor at the University of Missouri, says the new mug has faster cooling times, a new lid that limits residue buildup and a lifetime warranty. The Burnout comes in two sizes: 12 ounces ($79.99) and 16 ounces ($99).

The mugs are made in ThermAvant’s 4,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Columbia, Mo. The company plans to move to a new facility with about 20,000 square feet of space later this year.

Ma answered questions about the new product via email:

ThermAvant Burnout mugQ: How is the Burnout mug different from your Lexo models? Both use biobased phase change material to regulate temperature.

A: “1. The cooling rate increases from 4-8 minutes to 2-6 minutes, depending on mug size and initial coffee temperature. The Burnout mug has an item inside to enhance heat transfer. 2. The drinking lid is updated. If you compare the Lexo lid with the Burnout lid, you can find the difference. 3. The Burnout mug has a red or black powder painting, which is unique. 4. The Burnout mug is made in USA. 5. Each mug has a unique number.  When the customer purchases it, he or she can register online and get the lifetime warranty, which will provide the best service. 6. The luxury packaging box.”

Q: Why did you decide to use a new name and new website for this product?

A: “The Burnout name is for taking the ‘burn’ ‘out,’ which can directly tell the feature of our mugs.”

Q: Do you plan to continue to manufacture and sell the Lexo models?

A: “Not in USA.”

Q: In a news account, the PCM in the Burnout is said to be "charged" as part of the assembly process. Describe how the PCM is inserted into the walls of the product and then solidified.

A: “We spent almost two years to develop the confidential equipment to charge PCM, which is confidential.”

Q: Talk about your plans to produce "high-, standard- and low-temperature variants of Burnout.” What three temperatures are you focusing on?

A: “In the near future, we are going to have high-, standard- and low-temperature mugs.”

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

A: “We are going to launch instant drinking mugs, and two-temperature mugs in 2019.”

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."