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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: AI tool could transform chemistry; Peli BioThermal opens Tokyo service center

Ben Welter - Monday, April 09, 2018

An artificial-intelligence tool that has digested nearly every chemical reaction ever performed could transform the chemistry world, reports Nature. The tool, developed at the University of Münster in Germany, uses "deep-learning neural networks to imbibe essentially all known single-step organic-chemistry reactions — about 12.4 million of them. This enables it to predict the chemical reactions that can be used in any single step."

Pelican BioThermal plans to open a service center in Tokyo next month to service its reusable Credo Cube temperature-control shippers, including refurbishment and repair. The center will also serve as a network station for the company’s Credo on Demand rental program.

• Pelican BioThermal as an opening for "Business Development Manager UK or Netherlands EMEA."  

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted the agenda for the company's first Leading Minds Seminar, to be held June 6-7 in Blue Bell, Pa. 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.

Va-Q-tec AG of Germany reports that it has received a European patent for passive pallet-size containers with vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials. The European Patent 2876389 B1, which covers the company's va-Q-tainer product series, is valid in Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. "Imitators and competitors will now have to survive without some important thermal and mechanical functions," said Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the company's CEO. “The competition seems to be interested in the now legally protected technology and the highly energy efficient containers which are produced from it. We detected that competitors are offering patent infringing products. Obviously, we will take further steps to defend our technology."

• China's list of more than 100 U.S. products under threat of tariffs targets the U.S. chemicals and plastics sectors at a time when parts of the industry are investing heavily in new production, CNBC reports. Plastics, petrochemicals, petroleum products and specialty chemicals comprise about 40 percent of the targeted goods.

• New from 360 Market Updates: "Asia Pacific Advanced Phase Change Material Market Analysis 2012-2017 and Forecast 2018-2023"

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, Texas, has been named a Top 10 Energy Storage System Provider by Energy CIO Insights. Viking's PCM-based system is designed to reduce energy consumption in cold storage facilities by 20 to 35 percent.  

Amrit Robbins, CEO and founder of Axiom Exergy, will take part in a panel discussion, "Hot, Cold, and Shocking: What Leading Storage Options Can And Cannot Do," at the 37th Peak Load Management Alliance Conference in Coronado, Calif., April 16-18. 

PCM briefing: PCM symposium in Würzburg; research opening at CIC Energigune

Ben Welter - Friday, March 02, 2018

• The 2nd symposium on the use of PCM in buildings will take place March 14-15 in Würzburg, Germany. It is part of the demonstration project PCM Demo II. The free event is aimed at specialists and decision makers who would like to get informed about the topic, such as architects, planners, building physicists, energy consultants, municipalities and building cooperatives. Thomas Wollheim of va-Q-tec AGThomas Haussmann of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Felix Klinker of ZAE Bayern and Felix Pawelz of Rubitherm are among the scheduled speakers.  

Outlast Technologies of Golden, Colo., will be among the exhibitors at the International Battery Seminar & Exhibit March 27-29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Betabrand Microclimate Office WrapOutlast is using LinkedIn to showcase Outlast partners and their newest products. First up: Betabrand's Microclimate Office Wrap, a lightweight cardigan-style wrap designed to regulate body temperature "for all-day comfort." 

• The environmental group CDP reports that more than 100 cities worldwide now get the majority of their power (70 percent or more) from renewables. And a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency confirms the potential for increased use of renewable energy in Europe's heating and cooling sector.

• New from Coherent Market Insights: "Chilled Water Storage Systems by Market ... Opportunity Analysis, 2017-2025"

• New from Global Market Insights: "Phase Change Materials Market Size By Product (Paraffin, Non-Paraffin, Salt Hydrates, Eutectics) ... Competitive Market Share & Forecast, 2017-2024"

CIC Energigune, an energy research center in Spain's Basque Country, is looking to fill a post-doctoral position in its Thermal Energy Storage group. The selected candidate will focus on the development of advanced PCMs tailored for TES applications at low to medium temperatures, including solid-solid PCMs, shape-stabilized PCMs and encapsulated PCMs.   

• In an Accenture survey of 360 chemical companies in 12 countries, 80 percent of respondents said they are increasing their investments in digital technologies for plants, in particular plant management and product quality. 

• The final agenda has been released for the ARPA-E Summit in Washington, D.C., March 13-15. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is among the speakers. Also on tap: A discussion of "High Power Systems and Thermal Management Challenges in Defense" and a demonstration of an "Additively Manufactured Record High Thermal Conductivity Polymer Composite Heat Exchanger."

• Two Fraunhofer CSE projects, SunDial and Energy Storage Integration Lab, were on display Friday at the MIT Energy Conference Showcase in Cambridge, Mass. SunDial is an energy storage and distribution management system. The ESI Lab simulates a connected home of the future with a range of electric devices, including rooftop solar, energy storage, smart loads and EV charging. 

• Leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement could cost the United States $22 billion in lost chemical exports and create a tariff burden of up to $9 billion, the American Chemistry Council says.

PCM briefing: Axiom lowers energy costs at Whole Foods store; EnergyNest has opening for senior engineer

Ben Welter - Monday, February 19, 2018

• Nearly a year ago, a Whole Foods in Los Altos, Calif., connected a thermal battery system made by Axiom Exergy to the store's refrigeration system. Whole Foods pays Axiom a monthly fee for the saltwater-based technology. Axiom says that payment, coupled with a lower monthly power bill, amounts to less than what the grocer was paying its utility before the batteries were installed. 

• Thermal battery maker EnergyNest AS of Norway is looking to hire a senior engineer to work in its main office outside Oslo.  

• The schedule has been posted for the 2018 GlobalChem Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28-March 2. Most of the sessions focus on the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Global Harmonized System of Classification and other regulatory topics. 

Applications are being accepted for the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fields Grant Program (WAMS). The program supports research and extension projects that will increase participation by rural women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

• CONTISOL, a solar reactor that can run day or night, is being tested by researchers in Germany. The reactor uses concentrated solar power and thermal energy storage.

Registration is still open for the second annual European Chemistry Partnering event, to be held Feb. 23 in Frankfurt, Germany. It's a chance to pitch innovations and connect with investors and decision-makers in the chemical industry.

• U.K.-based Sure Chill Co., whose water-based refrigeration technology is used to keep vaccines cool without the need for grid-based electricity, has been shortlisted for a 2018 St. David Award in Innovation, Science and Technology. 

• The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has voted to clear a path for energy storage projects in the capacity, energy and ancillary services markets. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur noted that newer technologies “like some of the batteries, flywheels, compressed air, new forms of thermal storage, are rapidly gaining commercial viability and scale.”

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: Cleanergy to develop solar TES in Morocco; SpaceX has opening for a thermal engineer

Ben Welter - Friday, January 12, 2018

Cleanergy AB of Sweden and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy have agreed on a framework to jointly develop a thermal energy storage system using Cleanergy's Stirling-based solar electricity technology.

• Applications are being accepted for the World Materials Forum Startup Challenge. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for the competition, which recognizes technical or organizational breakthroughs in one of five categories, including materials composition, product design and 3D manufacturing. The winning company will receive a 50,000 euro award at the World Materials Forum in June in Nancy, France.

Grace Hsia, co-founder and CEO of Warmilu LLC, is among 14 entrepreneurs in the running for the $1 million top prize in the WeWork Creator Awards Global competition. The winner will be announced in New York City on Jan. 17.

• Prize money totaling 52,500 euros, financed by Germany's National Climate Initiative, is up for grabs in the German Refrigeration Prize 2018 competition, honoring innovations in air conditioning and refrigeration. The entry deadline is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced at the Berlin Energy Days conference in May.

SpaceX is seeking candidates for the position of thermal engineer.  

Pacific Gas & Electric will introduce a new electric time-of-use rate in April. The California utility says the optional rate will make energy use more efficient and minimize peak demand challenges. The peak pricing will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bain & Co. has analyzed how chemical companies can "demystify" the R&D process. Among the three common "failure modes" Bain identified: "strong team running in too many directions."

Buro Happold associate Mark Dowson will speak on the topic of "phase change materials for ultimate thermal efficiency" at the 2018 Materials for Architecture conference in London in April.

PCM briefing: USC develops PCM for satellites; Axiom Exergy posts opening for product engineer intern

Ben Welter - Monday, January 08, 2018

• Engineers at the University of Southern California and Northrop Grumman have developed a phase change material designed to control temperature swings that can disrupt the performance of satellites. A hybrid structure of silicon and vanadium dioxide works like textured skin to better control the radiation from the body of the satellite.

Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., is seeking a product engineering intern. It's a three-month position with the possibility of transitioning to full-time employment. Applicants are asked to answer this bonus question: "Given the choice between pure water and a NaCl-water solution as the thermal energy storage medium in medium temperature (40°F, 4.4°C) refrigeration applications, what are the pros and cons of each material?"

BioPCM image from Craigslist ad• Spotted on Craigslist: 3,000 square feet of BioPCM M27 and M51 for sale in San Diego. The seller, a building contractor, is asking for $1 per square foot. In a response to an email seeking more details, he described the material as "new in its original packaging" and wrote: "Make me an offer."

• U.K.-based Sure Chill, whose water-based refrigeration technology is used to keep vaccines cool without the need for grid-based electricity, has been long-listed for a 2018 Ashden Award in the Sustainable Energy and Health category.  

Pelican BioThermal has appointed Dominic Hyde as vice president of Crēdo on Demand.

Bio Gemüse Wagner, reported to be Germany's largest organic greenhouse, opened last month in Mühlingen. A 3,000-cubic-meter water tank is used as a thermal battery, storing heat supplied by a nearby biogas installation.

• New from Transparency Market Research: "1-Tetradecanol Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 - 2024"

• New from Absolute Reports: "Europe And Regional Bio-Based Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales and Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023" and "North America and Regional Inorganic Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales And Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023"

• "Caesar’s Last Breath," a new book by Sam Kean, details Albert Einstein's surprising passion project: a safer (but ultimately impractical) refrigerator.

PCM briefing: A call for papers on advanced building skins; a new factory for 1414 Degrees in Australia

Ben Welter - Tuesday, December 05, 2017

• A call for papers has been issued for the International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 1-2, 2018, in Bern, Switzerland. Among the topics: "Thermal performance of phase change materials for the building skin," "Models, tools and simulations for sustainable buildings" and "Cost engineering and life cycle cost analysis." The deadline for proposals is Feb. 15, 2018.  

1414 Degrees of Australia has moved into a 3,000-square-meter factory on the site of the former Mitsubishi engine plant near Adelaide, where it will build its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system. The company also plans to build two grid-scale silicon-based thermal energy storage systems in South Australia. 

ZAE-Bayern among more than 80 exhibitors scheduled to attend the 2018 Energy Storage Europe in Dusseldorf, Germany, March 13-15. 

• New from QYResearch Group: "Global Smart Fabrics and Textiles Market Research Report 2017"

• The U.S. Department of Energy plans to request $99 million in fiscal year 2018 to support Energy Frontier Research Centers, which work to advance breakthroughs in materials sciences, chemical sciences, geosciences and biosciences.

Glaciem Cooling Technologies of Australia won the "Applied Innovation" award at the inaugural Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards last month. 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.   

Sonoco President and CEO Jack Sanders will retire in April, following a 30-year career with the packaging company. Chief Operating Officer Robert C. Tiede will replace Sanders as CEO.

• Singapore-based agribusiness giant Wilmar International has entered into an agreement to purchase Cargill's palm oil refinery and neighboring storage facility in Kuantan, Malaysia.

• The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is seeking to hire a research associate for a seasonal thermal energy storage project. Responsibilities will include numerical and experimental investigation of the storage system in combination with phase change materials.

PCM briefing: SaltX Technology wins Swedish prize; Axiom has opening for field engineer

Ben Welter - Monday, October 23, 2017

• SaltX Technology has been awarded Sweden's E-Prize, presented by European energy company E.ON and Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer. SaltX won the category “Renewable Energy” as well as the “People’s Award.” SaltX's nano-coated salt energy storage technology is used in EnerStore, the company's large-scale energy storage system for heat and power generation.

Brooks Danahy, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is one of 13 University of Kansas students to receive a $1,000 Undergraduate Research Award. His project: "Characterization of Melting Point Depression and Phase Change Behavior in Ionic Liquid + Compressed Gas Systems.”

• California startup Axiom Exergy, maker of a "Refrigeration Battery" designed to reduce supermarket energy costs, has posted an opening for a field engineer

• Registration is open for a SpecialChem online course, "Essential Concepts for Optimal Compounding," to be held on Nov. 2. The cost for three attendees on one connection is 300 euros.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson got a virtual peek inside X, the secretive lab where Google's parent company is researching advanced technology. Current projects include salt-based thermal storage, which X believes could become the cheapest grid-scale storage technology in the world. 

• A ceramic-based mechanical pump developed at Georgia Tech is able to operate at record temperatures of more than 1,400º Celsius, expanding the range of materials that can be used in high-temperature thermal storage systems. “The hotter we can operate, the more efficiently we can store and utilize thermal energy," said Asegun Henry, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. "This work will provide a step change in the infrastructure because now we can use some of the highest-temperature materials to transfer heat. These materials are also the hardest materials on Earth.” 

Schneider Electric of Andover, Mass., says augmented reality and mixed reality training regimens will become increasingly important at chemical plants as advances occur in both hardware and software. 

PCM briefing: Inventory reset rule takes effect; va-Q-tec reports strong first half

Ben Welter - Monday, August 28, 2017

• Thermal energy storage, a proven technology for years in Europe, is now a "budding HVAC option" in the United States, ACHR News reports. “In many ways, applications haven’t changed,” said Steve Benz, a 35-year veteran of the thermal storage industry and Evapco’s director of global thermal storage and district energy. “What has changed is related to the electric market — with an emphasis today on sustainable energy production and electricity storage."

Jane Chen• In an appearance at Stanford School of Engineering, Embrace founder Jane Chen, right, talked about the challenges she faced in developing and expanding the use of the PCM-based infant warming blanket. "You will inevitably fail," she said, "and you need to have the courage and the persistence to get back out there, learn from your mistakes, and try again."

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published the final TSCA inventory reset rule. The rule, which is effective immediately, creates new reporting obligations for companies that manufacture or import chemical products.

Va-Q-tec AG is reporting a strong first half of the year, with revenue 44 percent higher than the same period last year. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, develops, manufactures and sells vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials. 

• Monday, Aug. 28, is the deadline for submitting entries in Bio-Based World News' bio-based innovation competition for the Americas. The two categories are product of the year and chemical innovation of the year. The awards will be presented at the Bio-Based Live conference in San Diego Sept. 25-26. 

Singapore's "Grid 2.0" may include district cooling systems that incorporate phase change materials. 

Sonoco ThermoSafe has an opening for product manager in Arlington Heights, Ill. 

• New from Market Research Future: "Global Thermal Energy Storage Market Research Report - Forecast to 2022"

SaltX Technology of Sweden and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd of China have reached an agreement to jointly develop and commercialize a "groundbreaking solution" for wind power with integrated energy storage.  

PCM briefing: A baby manikin that sweats; a salt and antifreeze TES system

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 03, 2017

Alphabet Inc.'s secretive development lab is developing a system for storing renewable energy in tanks filled with salt and antifreeze. "The system takes in energy in the form of electricity and turns it into separate streams of hot and cold air," Bloomberg reports. "The hot air heats up the salt, while the cold air cools the antifreeze, a bit like a refrigerator. ... Flip a switch and the process reverses. Hot and cold air rush toward each other, creating powerful gusts that spin a turbine and spit out electricity when the grid needs it. Salt maintains its temperature well, so the system can store energy for many hours, and even days, depending on how much you insulate the tanks."

Thermetrics baby manikinThermetrics LLC has introduced an 11-zone thermal baby manikin that features a thermally conductive carbon-epoxy shell, a “sweating skin system” and internal heater elements and temperature sensors. Nicknamed “Ruth,” the manikin can be used to evaluate the thermal properties of clothing, diapers, bedding, car seats and strollers.

Axiom Exergy and Ice Energy are on a list of 25 companies notable for developing innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption in commercial and industrial buildings.  

Croda International has announced the acquisition of Enza Biotech AB, a research enterprise established as a spin-out company from Lund University in Sweden.

AkzoNobel has announced the winners of its 2017 Imagine Chemistry initiative, recognizing and supporting efforts to help solve real-life chemistry-related challenges and to uncover sustainable opportunities for the company’s specialty chemicals business. Among the winners is Industrial Microbes of Emeryville, Calif., for its work on the biocatalysis of ethylene to ethylene oxide.

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins and Magnum CAES CEO Richard Walje will be among the speakers at the Energy Storage North America conference in San Diego next week. 

ONE Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., has selected Acme Aerospace to provide lithium ion battery systems to be used in ONE’s “Project Canada” aircraft. The Acme system features a proprietary phase change material to improve battery performance.

Reuters reports that Dow Chemical and DuPont are seeing increased benefits in developing sustainable "green" products, as the chemical giants seek new areas of growth and build a stronger connection with millennials.

TemperPack, a Virginia-based manufacturer of sustainable packaging for perishable goods, has raised $10 million in an investment round that will help it further expand operations and add jobs.

Digital strategies “will have a significant impact on many areas of the chemical industry, with the potential to change value chains, lead to higher productivity and more innovation, and create new channels to market,” according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis.

• The Bioencapsulation Research Group has posted the program for the 3rd Latin-America Symposium on Microencapsulation, to be held in Chile Nov. 27-29.

1414 Degrees, the Australian startup that has developed a way to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon, has posted openings for a chief financial officer and an energy storage and power network system analyst.

• New from QY Research: "Global Inorganic Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Market Research Report 2017"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Energy Harvesting Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2014 - 2020" and "Chilled Water Storage System Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 – 2016 and Opportunity Assessment; 2017 – 2027"

ThermoSafe ChillTechSonoco ThermoSafe has launched a new range of reusable, universal solutions for the pharmaceutical and biologics markets. ChillTech is a pre-qualified range of 2°C to 8°C PCM systems providing temperature control from two days up to six days for payloads from 4L to 40L. The range uses Laminar Medica’s ChillPhase paraffin phase change material.

• A new reference manual for the oleochemical industry is now available. "Fatty Acids: Chemistry, Synthesis, and Applications" presents new information on industrially important fatty acids including detailed descriptions of fatty acid crystallization, enzymatic synthesis and microbial production.

Pluss Advanced Technologies has received a 50 lakh grant (about $78,000 USD) under India’s Millennium Alliance Program to promote the use of the company’s MiraCradle cooling device in hospitals and neonatal care units across India. The device uses phase change material to treat birth asphyxia in newborns. 

• Why haven't phase change materials taken off in the UK construction industry? Ian Biggin of Phase Energy Ltd., which is developing novel shape-stabilized technologies, says the industry needs to address what he calls the "4Ps": price, performance, proof and promotion.