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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: 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: 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."

PCM briefing: New EU energy standard takes effect; new research on inorganic phase change material

Ben Welter - Monday, July 09, 2018

• The new version of the European Union's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive takes effect July 9. The directive is the EU's main legislative instrument designed to promote improved energy performance of buildings. Member states will have 20 months to transpose the new elements into national law.

• A proposal to use microencapsulated phase change material to help motor vehicles run smoothly in extreme cold has won the ClimateLaunchpad competition in Azerbaijan. A team of chemical engineering students from Baku Higher Oil School developed the concept. The team will represent Azerbaijan at the ClimateLaunchpad finals in Scotland Nov. 1-2, 2018.

• New from Research Reports: "2018 Global Inorganic PCMs Industry Report – History, Present and Future"

PCM briefing: Sunamp's copper heat exchangers; renewable energy's 'next big thing'

Ben Welter - Wednesday, May 30, 2018

• The industry group Copper Alliance takes a look at Sunamp Ltd.'s use of copper heat exchangers in its PCM-equipped heat battery systems: "Copper has a few properties that make it ideal for this application, including high thermal conductivity, lack of corrosion when in contact with the PCM, and the ability to satisfy potable water regulations required to fully certify Sunamp’s products."    

Bloomberg's David Fickling explains why the development of lower-cost energy storage technologies will be renewable energy's "next big thing."

• Swedish researchers have produced a bio-based material that is reported to be stronger than spider silk and all other known bio-based materials, whether fabricated or natural. Working with cellulose nanofiber, the essential building block of plants, researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed larger, lightweight materials for use in airplanes, cars, furniture and other products.

Ecozen Solutions of India, which makes PCM-equipped portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, was profiled this week in India Climate Dialogue

• New from Global Info Research: "Global Microencapsulation Technology Market 2018 by Manufacturers, Countries, Type and Application, Forecast to 2023"

• New from Market Research Future: "Global Advanced Energy Storage Systems Market Research Report - Forecast to 2027"

• New from HongChun: "2018 Global Molten Salt Solar Energy Thermal Storage and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Industry Depth Research Report"

Horizon 2020's RealValue group has released findings on its three-year, small-scale energy storage project. The group, led by Glen Dimplex and consisting of 13 partner organizations, installed smart electric thermal storage systems in 750 commercial and residential properties in Ireland, Germany and Latvia. Among the findings: "Smart control of SETS devices simultaneously reduces charging costs of the devices while improving the thermal comfort of the end user. It also has potential to manage congestion." 

PCM briefing: Texas undergrads win ASHRAE equipment grant; 1414 Degrees among exhibitors at Australia energy storage conference

Ben Welter - Monday, May 21, 2018

• A University of North Texas research project, “Design of Energy Recovery Heat Exchanger Coupled with Phase Change Materials for Building Temperature Control,” is one of 25 undergraduate projects awarded a 2018 equipment grant from ASHRAE. The grants, totaling more than $113,000, will help the winning students complete undergraduate projects at schools around the world.

• New from HTF Market Intelligence: "United States Cold Chain Equipments Market Report 2018"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Salt Hydrate Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 - 2016 and Opportunity Assessment; 2017-2027"

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

CouchBed

• The retail market is full of PCM-topped mattresses, pillows and seat cushions. Here's the first fold-out couch we've seen that features the temperature-control technology. The CouchBed, made by an Arizona company, is a 10-inch memory foam mattress that’s “made with 100% CertiPur certified ultra-dense memory foam, combined with phase change material to actively cool the sleeping surface."

• The U.S. Department of Energy has announced $72 million for new projects to advance high-temperature concentrating solar power technologies. The high-temperature thermal storage systems targeted by this program seek to achieve at least 700 degrees C, which would boost the efficiency and lower the cost of electricity. Awardees include Brayton Energy, Hampton, N.H, $7.6 million; National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., $7 million; and Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., $9.5 million.

• Under a new joint development agreement, the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy will join Cleanergy AB's board of directors and help the Swedish firm advance its concentrated solar power and storage technology. The agency will fund a “substantial part” of Cleanergy's research and development work on thermal energy storage. Cleanergy, in turn, will be able to test its technology using the agency's facility in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

• A Ph.D. candidate at Delft University of Technology outlines a strategy to maximize the potential of aquifer thermal energy storage and phase out the use of natural gas in the Netherlands.

• Thermal energy storage company 1414 Degrees will be among more than 60 companies from around the world scheduled to attend the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition May 23-24 at the Adelaide Convention Center. Other exhibitors include Tesla, Toshiba, GE and Victron Energy.

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: 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: 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.

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.