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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-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.

PCM briefing: BASF to spend $2.2 billion on R&D; Sunamp heat batteries qualify for Scottish loan program

Ben Welter - Monday, May 14, 2018

Chemical & Engineering News reports that the top 50 U.S. chemical producers generated $285.4 billion in chemical revenues in 2017, a 9.4 percent increase over 2016. 

• Under its new CEO, Martin Brüdermüller, BASF is planning to pour $2.2 billion into research and development, making BASF the second-highest investor in innovation in the chemicals sector after DuPont

Grace HsiaWarmilu LLC founder Grace Hsia, right, is on Crain's 20 in Their 20s list honoring Michigan's rising young leaders. Warmilu makes a PCM-equipped infant warming blanket.   

Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., has raised $7.6 million in Series A funding, for a total of $12.5 million raised to date. The round was co-led by GXP Investments and Shell Ventures. Axiom's PCM-based "refrigeration battery" is designed to reduce energy supermarket energy costs. 

Sunamp Ltd. is applauding the Scottish government's decision to include heat batteries to its Home Energy Scotland Loan program. Homeowners and private landlords are now eligible to apply for an interest-free loan of up to 6,000 pounds to install Sunamp's PCM-based heat battery systems.

• Albuquerque-based SAVSU Technologies is launching two new high-performance shipping containers branded as Evo Extreme. The containers are designed for the 2-8C and -80C temperature ranges.

Emirates District Cooling has won a contract to supply a district cooling system to the Expo Dubai 2020 event. The system will have a capacity of 60,000 tons of refrigeration. 

• Georg Rodriguez, managing director at MUTZ Engineering mbH, will present a free lecture, presumably in German, on "phase change materials for temperature management and energy storage in buildings" on Tuesday, May 15, at the KEBAB lecture room in Berlin.

Phase change material ensures a hot shower from the start

Ben Welter - Friday, April 20, 2018

The morning alarm sounds. You wake up, hop in the shower, turn on the tap and … wait. The water might be ice cold for 10 seconds or more, as hot water makes its way from the heater. A Portuguese startup has developed a line of PCM-based products designed to eliminate the wait – and the waste.

Hoterway shower fixtureHeaboo’s Hoterway shower fixture incorporates a thermal battery that heats the water instantaneously until hot water arrives from the heater. The PCM then recharges as heated water passes through the battery. A thermal mixing faucet automatically keeps the incoming water at a constant temperature.

Heaboo, which delivered its first units to Kickstarter backers last year, also offers standalone thermal batteries designed to supply hot water to sinks, tubs and other fixtures.

Rui Teixeira, Heaboo founder and general director, talked about the products in an e-mail interview:

Q: What kind of PCM is used in the products?

A: “We are currently using a paraffin with additives in our products. We are also trying to use more conventional paraffin to reduce the cost of the PCM. The one that we are using has a heat storage capacity of 230 Joules per gram.”

Q: What is the PCM's peak melting point?

A: “It depends on the specifications of the markets we are addressing. The first product uses a PCM with the melting point 45ºC, but for example in France they would prefer to have a PCM with a melting point above 50ºC; as they supply hot water at the temperature around 60ºC. There is not a big deal because we just need 4-5ºC of temperature differential to ensure that the material melts during the shower period.”

Q: How much PCM is used in each Hoterway?

A: “We are optimizing it, but right now we should be talking about 5 kilograms.”

Q: Who is your PCM supplier?

A: “We currently have two European suppliers, but the main one is still Rubitherm from Germany.”

Q: What material is used to contain the PCM?

A: “We use a PVC extruded pipe with some particular design." 

Q: In addition to Kickstarter, where you raised about 26,000 euros, what are your funding sources for this project?

A: “We had to seed investors in the R&D phases. We have four products already in the market and the sales are growing but not as we would like. :)

“We are also looking for industrial partnerships in order to adapt the technology to other applications to diversify our source of income in this early stage and beside that we are looking for an additional investment mainly to optimize production process and increase the go-to-market strategy.”


Q: Heaboo announced a partnership with the Portuguese manufacturer OLI last year. Is the Hoterway manufactured entirely in Portugal?

A: “The partnership with OLI was mainly commercial for the Portuguese market. Currently we have a partnership with an important French manufacturer but I can't reveal the name yet because we are still finishing details about the project. We will adapt the technology to other products related to domestic hot water; the production is still 100% Portuguese but we include accessories that are not made in Portugal, the PCM itself and also the thermal insulation. We use silica vacuum panels to ensure a great insulation with low thickness.”

Q: Will OLI also serve as a distributor of the Hoterway?

A: “OLI is our distributor for Portuguese market but not in exclusivity; in France and Italy we are also developing a distribution network to bring the product there, hopefully during this year." 

Q: How many units have you delivered so far, and how many do you expect to sell in 2018?

A: "Right now we have about 60 units delivered and most of them are installed already; we would like to finish 2018 with 500 units sold." 

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from consumers?

A: “The feedback is great. The product does exactly as we announced and the users just get rid of the problem they had before. You simply install the product and the waiting time is gone.

“We announce the capacity of the device to be 10 liters after 24 hours from last use, but normally the customer has less quantity of water stagnated in the pipes. That means that they actually still got instant hot water even if they don't use the shower for 48 hours and sometimes 72 hours. This is something highly valued by the customers because it seems that the device works better than we actually said to them.”

PCM briefing: A call for papers on energy storage for building applications; Peli BioThermal introduces CoolPall Flex

Ben Welter - Sunday, March 18, 2018

Energy and Buildings has issued a call for papers for a special issue on energy storage for building applications. Topics include "bio-inspired, bio-based, and bio-replicated storage materials and systems," "storage-based systems for mitigating indoor-outdoor microclimate" and "smart, multipurpose, multifunctional materials for sensible and latent thermal energy storage in buildings." Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza of the University of Lleida is among the issue's guest editors. Papers will be accepted between May 1 and July 31. Original manuscripts only.

Nebuma of Saarbrücken, Germany, has introduced a thermal energy storage system that can store around 16MWh of heat in a 20-foot container. The company says the blocks or granules in the tanks can be heated to up to 1,300ºC “with an efficiency that is second to none."

CoolPall FlexPeli BioThermal unveiled a new addition to its range of bulk temperature-control shippers this week at Clinical Trial Supply Europe in Milan. The CoolPall Flex is available in three heights with a capacity range of 140 to 767 liters. Options include standard insulation or vacuum insulated panels and water-based or PCM coolants in single or double coolant configurations. 

Harvard University's new district energy facility will feature the largest thermal storage tank in Massachusetts. The 1.3-million-gallon tank will store chilled water that will be used to cool buildings. It will also support some limited research applications.

• New from Pike Research: "Revenue From Net Zero Energy Buildings to Reach $1.3 Trillion by 2035"

• New from HeyReport: "2015-2023 World Micro-capsule Phase Change Composite Material Market Research Report by Product Type, End-User / Application and Regions / Countries

• New from HTF Market Intelligence: "Phase Change Materials Market Overview – Key Futuristic Trends and Competitive Landscape 2023"

• New from Transparency Market Research: "Cold Chain Packaging Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2017 - 2025

Ice Energy has announced the launch of "Keep Your Cool," a free HVAC replacement and energy storage program in Orange County, Calif. Under the program, qualifying businesses are eligible to receive fully installed HVAC and thermal energy storage systems, using Ice Energy’s proprietary Ice Bear unit. The system freezes water at night when demand for power is low. The stored ice is then used during the peak period of the day to provide uninterrupted cooling, using less energy and reducing air conditioning bills by up to 40 percent.

So, which PCM product idea was phony?

Ben Welter - Monday, January 08, 2018

In 2017's final issue of Phase Change Matters, we challenged readers to identify which of these PCM product ideas was phony: an edible additive for chocolate, a feminine pad with cooling properties, a cooling pad for chickens, a thermally responsive bra and a temperature-controlled shipping container for mosquito eggs. 

It was a trick question: All five product ideas were serious inquiries submitted to Entropy Solutions in the past year. Thanks to Holger Böhme, Shaun Mann and Kosheela Poo Palam for submitting answers - and for subscribing to our newsletter. Each will receive a PureTemp temperature-control coffee tumbler.

Which PCM product idea is phony? Answer correctly for a chance to win a PureTemp mug

Ben Welter - Tuesday, January 02, 2018

PureTemp tumbler Entropy Solutions receives a dozen or so inquiries each week, most of them serious questions about PCM products, pricing and suitability for various applications. But some inquiries stretch the bounds of believability. Can you identify which of the product ideas below is fake? 

Send your answer to bwelter@puretemp.com. Five winners will be randomly selected from correct entries received by Jan. 4. The prize: a prototype coffee tumbler developed by Entropy Solutions several years ago, a product idea that was totally legit.

NOTE: You must be a Phase Change Matters subscriber to submit an entry. Representatives of organizations attending the first meeting of the PCM Industry Association of North America in October know the answer and are not eligible for this contest. Good luck to all the contestants!

Chocolate1. Mmm chocolate

We are exploring new ingredient technologies to produce a chocolate product that will release heat when it is consumed. Standard chocolate produces a minor cooling effect when it's melting in the mouth – the main fat is cocoa butter. The idea is to develop a new filling fat/oil that will release heat when consumed.

2. Premium padsWonder Woman

I represent a consumer goods company that is seeking materials that could help the feminine pad feel ‘cool’ in order to increase the comfort of use, especially when female is engaging in activities such as boxing, distance running and other extreme athletic challenges.

Chickens3. Chicken helper

I am hoping phase change materials could help solve a problem I have. First, I am completely serious. Second, here is the problem: I live in Texas and have 10 back yard laying hens. It is hot. Chickens start to go into heat stress at 85 degrees. Is it possible to enclose PCMs into a sort of pad for my chickens to rest near during the day?

Golden Girls4. Hot flashes

I am interested in using your product for a product I am developing for my design thesis. I am trying to make a responsive bra that senses a hot flash, and responds by turning on peltiers and "conducting" the cold through some sort of gel medium to the skin. Are any of your products the right thing for this?

Mosquito eggs5. Mosquito eggs

I'm wanting to ship mosquito eggs and need the parcel to stay dry, and within a prescribed temperature range of 10-35 degrees for up to three days. Would you be able to recommend a particular product of yours which could meet these requirements?

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: Registration open for PCM 2018 in Quebec; MIT finds new way to mix oil, water

Ben Welter - Friday, November 10, 2017

• Registration is open for PCM 2018, the 12th IIR Conference on Phase Change Materials and Slurries for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. The conference will be held May 21-23, 2018, in Orford, Québec. Topics will include thermal energy storage; thermophysical and rheological properties of PCMs and slurries; and transport phenomena and time-dependent behavior of PCMs and slurries.

MIT researchers have developed a new way to mix oil and water and create an emulsion that remains stable for long periods — no shaking required.

• Registration is open for "Towards a Sustainable Solution to Melt Snow and Ice on Concrete Pavement: Use of Phase Change Materials, a presentation by Dr. Yaghoob Farnam, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Drexel University. Farnam will discuss his research on the use of PCM-enhanced concrete to inhibit the buildup of snow and ice on pavement. The program will be held Nov. 30 in King of Prussia, Penn.

• "Innovative Thoughts" blogger Harvey Wade visited the 3M Customer Innovation Centre in Bracknell, U.K., last month to find out how the big company sustains its innovative edge. Lesson No. 1: 3M listens to its customers. "They don’t guess what the customer needs," Wade writes, "they invest their time to know their needs, discovering the big problems that they can try to solve." 

BMW PCM Ride jacketBMW's 2018 Motorrad collection includes the latest version of the PCM Ride jacket, featuring microencapsulated phase change material that "adapts permanently and smartly to the current temperature."

Peli BioThermal has opened a service center in Brussels, Belgium, to handle its Credo line of reusable temperature-controlled packaging. 

Ember Technologies' newest temperature-control product, a $79 ceramic mug with an active heating system, contains no phase change material. The company's first product, a PCM-lined travel tumbler, sells for $150.

Grace Hsia, founder and CEO of Warmilu, a Michigan startup that makes an infant warming blanket, talks about the stresses and rewards of building a company from scratch. "I find my body will sometimes crash," Hsia told Crain's Detroit Business, explaining how 90-hour workweeks have led to bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis. "I've been trying to get more sleep, which is tough."

The preliminary program has been released for the fifth Building Enclosure Science & Technology conference, known as BEST5. It will take place April 15-18 in Philadelphia. 

• The American Chemical Society has won its lawsuit against Sci-Hub, a widely used pirate site for scientific papers that was established in 2011 by former neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan.

• New from Intellectual Research Partners: "Global Thermal Energy Storage (TES) systems Market By Technology (Molten salt, Phase change materials, Water based, Electric thermal and Solar) End User Application (Air Conditioning, Cold Storage, Power Storage, Process Cooling) Region (North America, Europe, APAC) Forecast To 2023"

Managing room temperature with PCM? There's an art to it

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A good piece of framed art can light up a room. Now, to some degree, it can also heat and cool it.

Cutaway of Tempassist wall decorTempassist, a wall decor system developed by Larson-Juhl of Norcross, Ga., and Phase Change Energy Solutions of Asheboro, N.C., is designed to maintain comfortable temperatures and reduce energy costs.

Here’s how it works: BioPCM, a biobased phase change material made by PCES, is enclosed in multi-layer film mats and placed in each frame, behind a large piece of art. The PCM absorbs excess heat when temperatures rise above 72 degrees F. When room temperature falls below 72, the PCM releases the heat. 

PCES says the system, which is now aimed at commercial customers such as hotels, hospitals and office buildings, offers a minimum 40 percent reduction in HVAC run times and 50 percent reduction in system on/off cycles, using temperature-control materials lasting more than 85 years.

Larson-Juhl is bringing Tempassist to market under a partnership/licensing agreement with PCES.

Doug Doolen, PCES’ Tempassist expert, answered questions about the product by email:

Q: How did the idea for this product originate?

A: In 2015, Phase Change Energy Solutions, Inc. (Phase Change) had a tech partner group introduce us to Larson-Juhl, a Berkshire Hathaway Company with a hundred-year history in manufacturing innovative custom picture frame moldings and wall décor all over the world.

In early discussions, Phase Change presented ENRG Blanket and BioPCM as a plant-based phase change material that can work in any orientation inside the building envelope. As an example, Phase Change mentioned use in a large coffeehouse as a place where ENRG Blanket could be incorporated behind the wall décor and pictures they had on display. This would help buffer thermal loads during peak hours associated with people and long lines and thus drive energy savings. 

LJ asked if the same concept could be applied to any room with wall décor that they supply across the world. 

Phase Change produced scale-model replicas of various rooms and validated proof of concept. This was then scaled to demonstrate performance with different material densities, conductivity and performance.

Full-size room/multiple-room testing commenced late in 2015 to prove room savings, distribution within the room and finally performance. This led to several successful full-building tests which showed significant energy savings that is consistent (often exceeding) the advertised 25-35% HVAC energy savings.

Q: Which PCM is used? C23? C25? Or a new PCM altogether?

A: BioPCM is the material powering Tempassist. It is specifically tuned (transition temperature and mass) to perform to this specific application. Larson-Juhl has also incorporated various features and construction elements that enhance overall performance.

Q: What's your take on the potential market size? 

A: Market size is quite large when you consider the number of retail and commercial structures with multiple room/floor configurations.