Croda International Plc introduced two new biobased phase change materials, CrodaTherm 32 and CrodaTherm 37, in March. The British specialty chemicals maker developed the products at its PCM lab in Gouda, Netherlands. Marco Auerbach, technology development manager, said development work began about three years ago. He discussed the project in an email interview.
Q: What prompted Croda to create these PCMs -- customer requests, anticipated demand based on market analysis or a combination of factors?
A: "A combination of factors. Market demand was picked up by various means and also verified by customers, which prompted us at one point to start the development."
Q: What was your role in development of these PCMs?
A: "I am leading the technical development of PCMs within Croda. Therefore my task was to put a team together to find the right chemistry for the best possible technical product properties. Mainly meaning high latent heat, narrow melting and crystallization points and high cycle stability."
Q: Did the team surmount any unexpected challenges, technical or otherwise?
A: "As with most developments, our project team also encountered challenges and set-backs. We had a few options to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. One challenge that is and will be taking more effort and time in future are chemicals registrations in various countries, but also raw material availability and pricing can have an impact."
Q: What specs can you share on each of the products, such as composition, peak melt point and latent heat storage capacity?
A: "For each launched PCM we have Product Data Sheets (PDS) available, so we also issued these for CrodaTherm 32 and CrodaTherm 37. They can be found on our website, www.crodatherm.com. CrodaTherm 32 has a melting temperature of 32°C and crystallizes at 29.5°C. Latent heat is 190 kJ/kg. For CrodaTherm 37 melting takes place at 36.8°C, crystallization at 35°C and latent heat is 203 kJ/kg, measured by DSC."
Q: Do the new products have any properties, such as latent heat storage capacity or material compatibility, that set them apart from competing products?
A: "It is important to define which competing products or technologies one compares our products with, but in general our PCMs are produced from renewable resources and are also biodegradable. They are non-corrosive to metals and have long-term stability. Another big advantage is the very much lower evaporation and higher flash points compared to the current paraffin industry standards."
Q: What applications are suited to each of the two PCMs?
A: "We do not define the applications our products can be used for, but we have seen most interest in personal cooling and heating applications, as well as temperature-controlled shipments. We are still regularly surprised where and how customers sometimes want to use our CrodaTherm PCMs."
Q: In what formats are the two PCMs available -- bulk, macroencapsulated, microencapsulated?
A: "Both CrodaTherms are available in IBCs and drums. We go down in size to about 16 kg pails as the lowest pack size, but on request other options are possible. Croda does not offer macro encapsulation as we see ourselves as PCM suppliers, not wanting to compete with our customers at the user level. We feel that our customers and partners are better equipped to do this from a technical and customer support point of view. Croda does give advice on materials compatibility and connect our customers with our partners for macro encapsulation though. We do offer micro encapsulated CrodaTherm and also plan to offer CrodaTherm 32 in micro encapsulated form. If there is interest, we will also consider to micro encapsulate CrodaTherm 37."
Q: In a LinkedIn post this month, Croda announced: "All our CrodaTherm materials are USDA certified bio based products." Croda lists 14 CrodaTherm materials on its site; I see only 13 CrodaTherm products listed on biopreferred.gov. Missing from the USDA list is CrodaTherm 9.5. Has that product been certified yet?
A: "CrodaTherm 9.5 is also a product that only has been launched quite recently. We target to have all our products on the USDA bio-preferred list and I am confident CrodaTherm 9.5 will be added to it as well, but all things take time. We expect this registration can be added to the list shortly."
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: "The development of new products and the joy when customers actually like the product and are buying it. At that point all the puzzle pieces come together and you know that the hard work is paying off. I am particularly pleased with our CrodaTherm PCMs because they do not only help to improve/protect the environment while in use (especially for building cooling/heating applications), but they are also made from renewable raw materials and are bio-degradable. The environment is important to me and as a developer I am really happy I can have a contribution in a sustainable future."