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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: 2-day training school in Barcelona; Alexium to launch foam bedding, 'top of bed' products

Ben Welter - Friday, March 15, 2019

A training school on thermal energy storage material selection, optimization and characterization will be offered May 20-21 at the University of Barcelona. The university's Center for Design and Optimization of Processes and Materials is hosting the event. The fee is 230 euros. Lecturers include Camila Barreneche, Ana Inés Fernández, Mercè Segarra and Pablo Gamallo of the University of Barcelona; Luisa Cabeza and Alvaro de Gracia of the University of Lleida, Spain; and Yulong Ding of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Alexium International Group Ltd. was among the companies making presentations this week at the Gabelli & Company Specialty Chemicals Conference in New York City. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments. Among its "cornerstone" initiatives is a plan to launch a new product line in early 2019, Alexicool FM, the application of the company's Alexicool technology to foam mattress and "top of bed" products.  

• Thermal materials specialist va-Q-tec reports that its annual revenue grew by 8 percent in 2018. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, said sales from its products business, including vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials, increased by 12 percent to 20.1 million euros, up from 18 million euros in 2017. However, its earnings fell by 58 percent, to 3 million euros. It blamed earnings decrease on investment costs and a rise in sales from its lower-margin products business.

• Australian researchers are challenging the belief that 22° C (72° F) is the optimum temperature to maintain worker productivity. A team from Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment and Cities Research Institute performed an extensive review of research literature on the relation of moderate thermal environment to cognitive performance. "From the research point of view," the lead researcher, Fan Zhang, said in an interview with the Cooling Post, "there is no empirical evidence that this temperature [22ºC] should be maintained. In effect, it is inconsistent with the already-established comfort benchmarks such as ASHRAE 55-2017, which recommends a summer time thermal comfort zone of 23-26ºC. I would say 23-26 is a safe summer temperature set point range for western developed countries."

Microtek introduces new PCM built with nextek encapsulation technology

Ben Welter - Monday, March 11, 2019

Microtek Laboratories of Dayton, Ohio, has developed a new microencapsulated phase change material designed for use in bedding, building materials and consumer textiles.

The biobased PCM, vivtek 29, is offered in wet cake form. It has a melting point of 31º Celsius and a thermal storage capacity of 170 joules per gram. The mean particle size is 14-24 microns.

Microtek says the new product, built using the company’s patented nextek encapsulation technology, “combines robustness, high thermal stability and easy dispersibility” in an aqueous solution and is "less flammable than traditional PCMs." The company quietly introduced vivtek in July 2018.

Microtek President Tim Riazzi says the company has “several projects in the development phase” that use the nextek encapsulation technology.

“Interest in consumer applications [for vivtek] is very good,” Riazzi said. “As with general consumer desires, more and more of our partners are looking and asking for sustainable and bio-based options to add to their product lines.”

https://www.microteklabs.com/blog/introducing-vivtek-29

Need a PCM coating on that coat? Ohio company has a solution

Ben Welter - Friday, March 01, 2019

Therma-SprayMCMENT Inc., an Ohio company that makes a PCM spray designed for use by consumers, launched a new website last month, teamapini.com, to market the product.

"We have been working on the Team Apini Therma-Spray product for a couple of years to give consumers a way to apply PCM technology to the clothing, bedding or other textile products they may already own," said Monte Magill, the company's senior vice president for PCM technologies. The coating is designed to absorb and release thermal energy to enhance thermal comfort.

"It is a water-based formulation containing microencapsulated PCMs and a heat curable binder material to affix the microPCMs to the various textile substrates," said Magill, who has worked in the PCM industry since the mid-1990s. "We do the final packaging in house but have the microPCMs and the binder formulation contract manufactured."

Therma-Spray-treated socks are also available on the site. The company has been selling Infinite R PCM products for the building and construction industry on its main site, mcmentinc.com, since 2016.

Magill says more retail products are in the pipeline: "Look for Team Apini thermal underwear, henleys, pillow cases and sheeting, a bunzy protector (seat cushion thermal protector for home, auto, camping, stadium, etc.), heating and cooling packs (for work, first responder and dietary applications) as well as an equestrian line we are working on now for both horse and rider (dressage focus)."

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.