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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: PureTemp joins RSPO; Reda's new PCM fabric on display in Milan

Ben Welter - Monday, February 18, 2019

PureTemp LLC has joined the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil as an associate member. The nonprofit organization, which has more than 4,000 members worldwide, promotes the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products. In November, RSPO adopted stricter standards for certified sustainable palm oil, including a total ban on deforestation by its members.

Reda Group's new Active Phase temperature-control fabric was on display at the Milan fabric trade show earlier this month. The material uses phase change material to keep body temperature constant when ambient temperature fluctuates. Reda says the material features enhanced breathability and softness and is "easy to clean, even in water."

University of Maryland fabric•  University of Maryland researchers have created a temperature-control fabric that does not rely on phase change material. The fabric changes its insulating properties in response to the environment. In warm and humid conditions, the fabric allows radiant heat to pass through. When conditions become cooler and drier, the fabric reduces the heat that escapes. Two types of synthetic materials in the fabric — one that absorbs water and another other that repels it — are coated with carbon nanotubes. The fibers warp and relax in response to changing humidity, opening and closing pores in the fabric. 

• In interviews with Advanced Textiles Source, four entrepreneurs were asked: What do you wish you had known early on when you were first dealing with intellectual property law and patent issues? “Get feedback on why you need a patent,” said Jeremy Wall, founder and CEO of smart-clothing startup Lumenus. “Where else could you spend $20,000?” Said Matt Kolmes, CEO of VOLT Smart Yarns: “Even if you are on a tight budget, file that Provisional application immediately before you show your idea to anyone, or talk about it with anyone."

• The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action program is seeking applicants for a one- to two-year research fellowship at the Oslo Metropolitan University. The European Union-funded fellowship will focus on the energy-performance aspects of phase change material in buildings. "In this collaboration," OsloMet says, "we intend to gain our understanding and explore about the micro-structural aspect to relate the macro-scale behavior at continuum level." The application deadline is March 7.

PureTemp introduces temperature-control fabric coating

Ben Welter - Wednesday, January 23, 2019

PureTemp LLC has developed a fabric coating engineered to provide an effective buffer against ambient temperature swings in consumer products such as apparel, footwear, bedding, safety, medical, workwear and industrial applications.

Scanning electron microscope image of PureTemp fabric coating Through a proprietary process, PureTemp's biobased phase change material is enclosed in spherical microcapsules and bound to the surface of the fabric. PCMs absorb, store and release thermal energy as they cycle between solid and liquid states. The PCM coating interacts continuously with the unique microclimate of the human body, storing and releasing energy to balance body temperature and increase comfort.

PureTemp honeycomb pattern coatings are available for knit, woven, interlock, circular knits, nonwoven, cotton, polyester and other blends. The photo above shows what PureTemp coated fabric looks like under a scanning electron microscope.

The Minnesota company began producing the world’s first 100 percent biobased PCMs in 2007. PureTemp PCMs, developed in three years of research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are used in a wide variety of temperature-control applications, from cooling vests and warming blankets to shipping containers and coffee mugs.

PureTemp's Dan Keller is directing the business initiative. For more information on PureTemp coated fabrics, contact him via inquiries@puretemp.com or visit https://www.puretemp.com/fabrics.

Patent application: Fibrous structures comprising phase change materials

Ben Welter - Friday, January 04, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190002747 (applicant Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, Ohio):

"Fibrous structures, for example sanitary tissue products, such as toilet tissue, having one or more neat, endothermic phase change materials on at least one exterior surface, methods for making same, and methods for eliciting a sensation on a user's skin are provided. ... The fibrous structure according to claim 1 wherein the neat, endothermic phase change material is selected from the group consisting of: hydrocarbons, waxes, oils, natural butters, fatty acids, fatty acid esters, dibasic acids, dibasic esters, 1-halides, primary alcohols, aromatic compounds, anhydrides, ethylene carbonates, polyhydric alcohols, and mixtures thereof."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190002747.pdf

Incubator uses PCM to keep lab samples at optimum temperatures

Ben Welter - Saturday, December 22, 2018

Intellectual Ventures’ Global Good fund has signed a licensing agreement with JP Selecta of Spain to manufacture and distribute a microbiological incubator for laboratories in areas with unreliable electrical power.

Incudigit SV 30LThe body of the Incudigit-SV 30L is lined with phase change material, enabling the device to maintain a user-adjustable temperature setpoint of 35° C, 36° C or 37° C for at least eight hours without power. 

“This incubator will help frontline health workers perform important culture-based microbiological tests in places where power is unreliable – a critical step in managing diseases like tuberculosis, sepsis, enteric and diarrheal diseases, and sexually-transmitted bacterial infections,” said Maurizio Vecchione, executive vice president of Global Good.

Three members of the Intellectual Ventures team that developed the incubator (Michael Friend, principal investigator; Simon Ghionea, senior researcher and electrical engineer; and Andy Miller, senior researcher and mechanical engineer) fielded questions about the device.

Q: What was your role in the development of the Incudigit-SV 30L?

A: The team came up with the initial concept, analyzed and designed the first-generation prototype, tested in the lab and the field and then transitioned the device to JP Selecta for the product development cycle. After the first product units were developed, the team then verified the performance of the units.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in developing the device?

Drawing of Incudigit SV 30 prototypeA: The device has to be able to support power blackouts which could occur with ambient conditions above and below the temperature setpoints (of which there are three), so developing a method to properly assess the state of the PCM was a challenge. Additionally, while the initial PCM chosen for the device had great performance at first, it was discovered that after repeated deep cycling that the enthalpy was depleting. This PCM could be recharged using an overheat procedure; however this imposed an unacceptable impact on the use case. We wound up having to change to a more stable PCM with slightly less performance than the original.

Q: Describe the typical user of the device.

A: The typical user is a medical technician/microbiologist in a laboratory which does not have reliable power. In most countries in the developing world this may be all the labs with the exception of the national reference laboratory.

Q: When will manufacturing/distribution begin?

A: With product launch this week, manufacturing/distribution is just beginning. The first units will be delivered to Doctors Without Borders for pilot tests in South Sudan and Niger in January as well as the African Medical and Research Foundation and the Lao-Oxford-Mahosot Hospital Wellcome Trust Research Unit. As this is allowing microbial culture to take place in labs where it previously could not occur, it will be difficult to estimate quantities.

Q: Describe how the device functions, especially how PCM is used. Does the device include a battery to provide active cooling and power the electronics when external power is not available?

A: The device uses PCM as a “thermal storage battery” in order to control the temperature (see reference paper http://medicaldevices.asmedigitalcollection.asme.org/article.aspx?articleid=2718461). A key feature is to maintain the PCM in a state such that it can maintain incubation setpoint temperatures at 35, 36, and 37 C during power blackouts with ambient conditions that can be above or below the setpoints. No active heating or cooling is used, only a small battery to maintain the electronics to perform temperature and power monitoring. [see YouTube video]

Q: What are the specs on the phase change material?

A: It's a paraffin with a peak melt point of 37 C and a thermal storage capacity of 160 joules per gram.

Q: How much PCM is used in each device?

A: 19 liters.

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."

PCM briefing: Ice Energy seeks distributors in Australia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia; Thermetrics' new manikin can measure PCM effects

Ben Welter - Friday, August 31, 2018

• In an interview with Energy Storage Report, CEO Mike Hopkins discussed Ice Energy's plans to distribute its ice-based thermal energy storage technology in Australia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In June, the California company announced a $40 million cash infusion from Argo Infrastructure Partners to finance the delivery of Ice Energy's residential and commercial thermal storage contracts.

Thermetrics manikin ANDIThermetrics says its new ANDI sweating thermal manikin has the "unrivaled ability" to measure both positive and negative heat flux and to respond to changing environmental conditions with "unprecedented" speed and accuracy. The new manikin was unveiled this week at the 12th International Meeting of Manikins and Modeling, hosted by the Swiss research institute Empa, in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The manikin can be used to evaluate the thermal performance of apparel, blankets and seats, as well as quantify the cool-to-touch or warm-to-touch temperature-buffering effect in fabrics containing phase change materials. 

• New from LP Information: "2018-2023 Global Eutectic Phase Change Material Consumption Market Report"

• New from Research and Markets: "Phase Change Materials (PCMs) - A Global Market Overview"

• The journal Nature reports that India is cracking down on predatory journals, publications that "actively solicit manuscripts and charge authors hefty fees without providing the services they advertise, such as editing and peer review." 

• Life science laboratories are finding creative ways to reduce the amount of plastic they throw away, The Scientist reports. 

Sonoco ThermoSafe will hold its next Leading Minds Seminar Nov. 6-7 at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel Heathrow, London, England. 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.

Viking Cold Solutions says the thermal energy storage system the company installed at a 93,000-square-foot frozen food distribution center in Richmond, Calif., has reduced peak period energy consumption by up to 43 percent and reduced overall freezer energy consumption by 35 percent. Viking installed the system at the Dreisbach Enterprises warehouse earlier this year. Plastic panels filled with a proprietary salt hydrate are installed evenly throughout the warehouse atop the existing product racks. The PCM absorbs heat as it melts, allowing chillers to run less frequently and still keep the warehouse within a few degrees of the target temperature. The system also includes intelligent controls and sensors to optimize energy use and alert managers to temperature abnormalities, equipment failure and power outages.

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-equipped personal air conditioner set for commercial release in 2019

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Developers of a personal air conditioner designed to reduce energy use in office buildings say they’re on track for commercial release next year. The “μX” micro climate system features a phase change material that solidifies at about 18 degrees C to store cooling generated at night for use during the day.

mX early version
The evolution of the μX: an early design ...
Dr. H. Ezzat Khalifa of Syracuse University led the development team, which includes Air Innovations, Cornell University, United Technologies Research Center and Bush Technical LLC. The team has been working on the system since 2015, funded in large part by a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provided $400,000 in follow-on funding in 2016.

Sam Brown, OEM custom director at Air Innovations, is in charge of bringing the product to market. He and Michael Wetzel, president and CEO at Air Innovations, talked about their company’s role in the project.

Q: Describe the μX system size, components and functionality.

Brown: “The current unit is about twice size of a standard PC computer tower. The unit utilizes a phase change material that melts over time. We then run a fan over the material to create an active cooling effect. A compressor then re-solidifies the PCM in the off-peak hours for future on-demand needs.”

Q: Describe the phase change material used in the system: type, melt point, thermal storage capacity, amount used in each unit.

Brown:Rubitherm, 68F, 8-10 hours, 40 pounds.”

mX early version
... a version displayed at a recent conference ...
Q: Were different PCMs tested, or did the team focus on one from the start?

Wetzel: “Many PCMs were considered and analyzed before settling on Rubitherm, but no others were tested in operating systems.”

Q: Preliminary tests indicate the prototype can remove more than 32W of heat, surpassing the ARPA-E grant target of 23W. Is the final production model likely to hit that higher number?

Wetzel: “23 watts is the target heat removal directly from a person. Our manikin results showed us exceeding that number in all tests. We tested three different diffuser methods. Some achieved as high as 32 watts removed from the manikin. In all cases we are actually generating more than 500 watt-hours of cooling, enough to cool the airstream 8 degrees F for 10 hours.”

Q: The system is now known as "μX." Will that name be used for the commercial product?

Brown: “No, the commercialized name will more closely reflect the manner in which it's utilized.”

Q: What was the greatest technical hurdle the team faced in developing this product?

Wetzel: “There were many challenges on this project. Part of the program required the development of the world’s smallest scroll compressor. This also means that there was no performance data or design simulation data with which to develop the rest of the system. Our partners on the project had to develop simulation tools based on testing each new component. At Air Innovations our main challenges are designing for manufacturability and the integration and testing of off-the-shelf components as alternatives, as some of the elements of the ARPA-E units are not yet commercially available.”

mX early version
... and, finally, says Brown, "where we think the unit will potentially go in final production."
Q: What is happening with the project right now? Is it at the pilot stage?

Brown: “Currently, we are working through ARPA-E and New York State Energy grants to fully develop the technology. We are developing the unit for two scenarios. The primary is for 8-10 hours of cooling in any office environment. The other is for four hours to off-load the grid in metropolitan areas with peak power capacity concerns. Several units have been built and tested in controlled environments. We are currently seeking grant opportunities to support larger field trials.”

Q: Can you offer any details on the timeline, projected price, target market and sales projections?

Brown: “Further human testing will be necessary in order to right-size the final product. The unit will likely be ready for market sometime in 2019. The initial price point of the unit will be higher, and then come down based on quantity and market demand, settling around $2,500. It is our goal to bring to market 250-500 units in the first year.

“The exciting opportunity with the μX technology is that it further expands upon our existing Micro Environments product line. The commercialized unit will be able to control the users’ complete environment while not only offering active cooling and heating, but to control their entire surroundings as seen in our other models. Furthermore, our customers will see an ROI with the μX technology by allowing set points in the summer to run higher and temps to run cooler in the winter, reducing building HVAC power needs with a more personal temperature control directly at the desk. We believe this technology can improve worker productivity by allowing individual control, at all times, of their specific environment.”

PCM briefing: Neck collar uses Outlast to keep wearer cool; thermally responsive bandage heals wounds quickly

Ben Welter - Monday, June 25, 2018

A new neck collar designed for people living with motor neurone disease features Outlast phase change technology to keep the wearer cool. The Heads Up collar supports the collection of small muscles in the neck that are vulnerable to the wasting effects of the disease.

• A Northwestern University team has developed a thermally responsive bandage that quickly heals painful, hard-to-treat sores in people with diabetes. The bandage features a hydrogel that rapidly solidifies when exposed to body temperature, conforming to the shape of the wound.

• In the short term, analysts say crude palm oil prices have likely hit rock bottom. But a Rabobank analyst is projecting reduced production - and higher prices - from 2022 to 2025. 

•  A call for papers has been issued for the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference Europe, to be held in Strasbourg, France, Jan. 27-31, 2019. "Thermal modeling" and "preventing thermal runaway" are among the topics. The deadline for priority consideration is June 29.

Emily Liu, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office to receive a $1.8 million award to study high-temperature molten-salt properties and corrosion mechanisms.

Dr. Robert Brookins, interim CEO at Alexium International Group Ltd., will present an hourlong webinar, "Phase Change Materials: How Can They Help Set Your Company Apart," on June 28. The free event is sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Association International.  

• Swedish solar company Azelio has launched a demonstrator of its solar energy storage technology. The system uses an aluminum alloy as a thermal storage material. 

In a new directive, the European Commission is calling for at least 32 percent of total EU energy use to come from renewable sources by 2030. The directive, which will require the formal approval of the European Parliament, sets specific annual targets for cooling and heating installations. 

• The agenda is taking shape for the 13th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 1-2 in Bern, Switzerland. Topics include "Energy buffering with phase change materials" and "Thermal performance of phase change materials for the building skin."

Va-Q-tec AG is expanding its Kölleda location in Thuringia, Germany. The company manufactures vacuum isolation panels, phase change materials and passive thermal packaging systems at two plants there.

• MIT Technology Review reports that Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent company) appears to be in talks to spin out Project Malta, a molten-salt energy storage project, in a transaction involving Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ $1 billion investment fund.