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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.

Two Entropy advisors, Dr. Mohammed Farid and Lucas B. Hyman, are pleased to take your questions about PCMs and thermal energy storage. Send your questions to bwelter@puretemp.com. We'll select the best and post the answers here each week.

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Research roundup: Rubber sealing materials; pork fat as novel PCM; thermal inertia of buildings; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Feasibility of Using Microencapsulated Phase Change Materials as Filler for Improving Low Temperature Performance of Rubber Sealing Materials [Soft Matter]

Evaluation of the nanofluid and nano-PCM based photovoltaic thermal (PVT) system: An experimental study [Energy Conversion and Management]

Investigation of pork fat as potential novel phase change material for passive cooling applications in photovoltaics [Journal of Cleaner Production]

Superwetting polypropylene aerogel supported form-stable phase change materials with extremely high organics loading and enhanced thermal conductivity [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Polyethylene glycol-enwrapped silicon carbide nanowires network/expanded vermiculite composite phase change materials: Form-stabilization, thermal energy storage behavior and thermal conductivity enhancement [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Solar desalination using solar still enhanced by external solar collector and PCM [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Using Thermal Inertia of Buildings with Phase Change Material for Demand Response [Energy Procedia]

Preparation of microencapsulated phase change materials (MEPCM) for thermal energy storage [Energy Procedia]

Study of thermal conductive enhancement mechanism and selection criteria of carbon-additive for composite phase change materials [International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer]

PCM briefing: Three molten salt projects projects move forward in U.S., Germany

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Terrafore salt encapsulation• The U.S. Department of Energy has released funding to the Argonne National Laboratory for a scaled-up round of independent testing of Terrafore Technologiesencapsulated thermal energy storage in phase change salts. The materials, shown at right, are designed to operate in temperatures to greater than 800° C in a single tank that acts as both storage and heat exchanger.

• The Department of Energy has invited Terrestrial Energy USA to submit the second part of its application for a federal loan guarantee to support the licensing and construction of its Integrated Molten Salt Reactor

DLR has fired up the TESIS thermal storage facility in Cologne, Germany. One hundred tons of molten salt is alternately heated and cooled from 250 to 560 degrees Celsius in the test facility, which is designed to allow industrial-scale testing of temporary storage methods for renewable energy and waste heat. 

• Va-Q-tec AG is reporting a strong increase in its service business in the first half of 2017, up 54 percent to 8.8 million euros. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, develops, manufactures and sells vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials. 

• New from Zion Market Research: "Global thermal storage market is expected to reach USD 5.7 billion in 2022, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% between 2017 and 2022"

Advanced combat clothing featuring "four-way stretch phase-change material" was on display last week at the annual Defense and Security Equipment International show in London. Royal College of Art researchers and designers collaborated with the Ministry of Defense on the prototypes, which are designed to be easy to run in and comfortable to wear.  

Patent application: Enhanced metal-metal-matrix composite weapon barrels

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170261280 (applicant Sapphire Defense Group LLC, Easley, S.C.):

"Weapon barrels are disclosed which offer improved thermal performance and rigidity with no, minimal or negative weight increase. In general the barrel comprises a barrel core surrounded by a lightweight, thermally conductive sleeve made from metal-matrix composite (MMC) materials, also referred to as metal-matrix material. The increased diameter of the sleeve improves the barrel's stiffness and the sleeve's thermal conductivity and distributes the heat more evenly along the barrel. ... Hot spots may be reduced and more surface area can contribute to heat dissipation. The increased diameter also allows integration of phase changing and/or vibration dampening materials, which further enhance performance."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170261280.pdf

Patent application: Temperature-stabilized culture incubator

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170260492 (applicant Tokitae LLC, Bellevue, Wash.):

"Described embodiments include a culture incubator, method, and sensor circuit. A culture incubator includes an accessible incubation compartment configured to contain a culture item at a specified incubation temperature; a phase change material having a phase transition temperature over the specified incubation temperature; and a heat transfer element in thermal communication with the phase change material and configured to transfer heat to the phase change material. A sensor circuit is configured to acquire data indicative of a phase composition state of the phase change material. A manager circuit is configured to determine a difference between the phase composition state and a target phase composition state for the phase change material. A controller circuit is configured to transfer heat to the phase change material in an amount estimated to change the phase composition state of the phase change material to the target phase composition state."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170260492.pdf

German researchers roll out PCM warming mats for greenhouse plants

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of Zwickau's Institute for Textile and Leather Technologies are developing a latent heat storage mat that uses phase change material to increase plant root temperatures in cold seasons. 

Dr. Silke HessburgThe passive system, designed for use in greenhouses, requires no additional energy supply. Dr. Silke Hessberg, who is directing the research, says root climate control promotes plant growth efficiently.

"There are already various heating systems on the market, such as underfloor heating systems, hot water systems or electric and gas heaters," she says. "These are always cost-intensive heating systems, since energy must be actively supplied."

The Thuringian Institute of Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) is supporting the two-year project. TITK's Martin Geissenhöner identifies the PCM as paraffin. 

"We have different melting points. For the root project we use melting points between 5 and 42° C, specially 17° C," he says. "The PCM is encapsulated in a network polymer. It's like a sponge structure."

Research associate Nancy Schrader says the mats are placed on the soil surface. Work on the project began in May 2015 and is expected to conclude in December. 

Research roundup: PCM wallboard; composite Trombe solar wall; indoor thermal comfort; more

Ben Welter - Friday, September 15, 2017

Energetic performance of two different PCM wallboards and their regeneration behavior in office rooms [Energy Procedia]

Correlation between energy efficiency in buildings and comfort of the users [Energy Procedia]

Numerical study of a composite Trombe solar wall integrating microencapsulated PCM [Energy Procedia]

Design of High Temperature Thermal Energy Storage for High Power Levels [Sustainable Cities and Society]

Numerical analysis of heat transfer processes in a low-cost, high-performance ice storage device for residential applications [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Solid-liquid phase change investigation through a double pipe heat exchanger dealing with time-dependent boundary conditions [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Evaluation of energy efficient hybrid hollow plaster panel using phase change material/xGnP composites [Applied Energy]

Indoor thermal comfort assessment using different constructive solutions incorporating PCM [Applied Energy]

The experimental phase diagram study of the binary polyols system erythritol-xylitol [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Multifunctional poly (melamine-urea-formaldehyde)/graphene microcapsules with low infrared emissivity and high thermal conductivity [Materials Science and Engineering: B]

Patent application: Product transport container

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170253409 (applicant Phase Change Energy Solutions Inc., Asheboro, N.C.):

PCES patent drawing"Product transport containers are disclosed. Such containers can provide one or more advantages compared to existing containers. For example, product transport containers described herein can maintain a product at a desired temperature for an extended period of time, including without the use of an active heating or cooling component. Such product transport containers described herein may also provide improved breathability, thermal insulation, and/or mechanical strength or dimensional stability. Such containers can include a plurality of walls defining an interior volume and a selectively openable side permitting movement of the product into and out of the interior volume of the container. The walls can be formed from a thermoformed non-woven fabric."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170253409.pdf

Patent application: TES systems comprising encapsulated PCMs and a neutralizing agent

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170254601 (applicant Entropy Solutions LLC, Plymouth, Minn.):

"Provided are Thermal Energy Storage (TES) systems comprising Phase Change Material (PCMs) compositions for thermal management in different applications such as building, automotive, and industrial applications. Provided are TES systems comprising encapsulated PCMs and a heat transfer medium comprising a neutralizing agent and/or an ion exchange resin capable of neutralizing the acidic or basic PCM contained in the capsules, should the PCM permeate the walls of the capsules or otherwise be released into the surrounding heat transfer medium."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170254601.pdf

PCM briefing: Solar-powered micro cold rooms; Axiom Exergy's jazz connection

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

• The German company Covestro is providing technology for use in solar-powered micro cold rooms in India. The cold rooms employ phase change material to keep produce cool until it can be transported from farm to market. Eight hundred units will be built in the Indian state of Telangana over the next two years. 

• In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Anthony Diamond talks about the musical connection he shares with Axiom Exergy co-founder Amrit Robbins. They met as undergrads at Stanford University. "I play saxophone, he’s actually a trumpet player," Diamond said. "He was like, the best jazz trumpet player on campus. So whenever I had a gig, I would call him, and vice-versa. We had an opportunity to collaborate a lot within that context. I knew that I worked really well with him and we were a really great team."

• Heat battery maker Sunamp Ltd. is one of 15 European scaleups selected to give presentations in California next week at Startup Europe Comes to Silicon Valley

Pelican BioThermal has opened a service center in Puerto Rico. The center will serve as a depot for the company’s Credo on Demand rental program and enable customers to receive and return reusable temperature controlled packaging systems.

Facebook has announced that its cloud campus in Odense, Denmark, will be connected to a neighborhood district heating system. The company expects the system will warm 6,900 homes.

Evelyn Wang, director of MIT’s Device Research Laboratory and an internationally recognized leader in phase change heat transfer on nanostructure surfaces, has been named associate department head of operations in the school's Department of Mechanical Engineering.  

Long-Qing Chen, professor of engineering science, mechanics and mathematics at Penn State University, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany. Chen will work with Jürgen Rödel, professor of materials science and engineering at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, on areas of mutual interest, including multiferroic thin films and phase change materials.

MIT researchers are taking a look at 3,000-year-old technology that could help reduce the use of fossil fuels. Under the proposal, electric resistance heaters would convert excess electricity into heat. The heat would be stored in a large mass of firebricks, which can retain heat for long periods if they are enclosed in an insulated casing. The heat could be used directly for industrial processes, or it could feed generators that convert it back to electricity when the power is needed.  

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.