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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: Cash infusion for PCES; call for e-textile conference papers

Ben Welter - Monday, January 28, 2019

Phase Change Energy Solutions Inc. of Asheboro, N.C., last week announced an investment by Pegasus Capital Advisors, Emerald Technology Ventures and Third Prime, an early-stage venture fund and prior investor. Dennis McGill, operations advisor at Pegasus, joined PCES last month as chief executive officer. The company says it will use the proceeds to fund the continued development of its thermal storage products and expand its operations globally. Terms of the investment were not disclosed. 

Mark RichardsMark Richards, right, CEO at Emery Mechanical Engineering in San Diego, is featured in a recent episode of the HVAC 360 podcast. Richards, former applications engineering manager at Phase Change Energy Solutions, talks about "Phase Change Materials in Practice." 

1414 Degrees of Australia reports that the first commercial pilot of its molten silicon energy storage system is one step closer to commissioning. The GAS-TESS will store energy to generate electricity from biogases produced at a wastewater treatment plant. 

• In collaboration with Canada's Université Laval, researchers at the University of the Basque Country in Spain conclude that "fake ISO 9001 quality certificates are very widespread across Chinese companies and that the certification processes of the auditing companies lack credibility." 

• The Association Connecting Electronics Industries has issued a call for technical conference abstracts and educational course proposals for IPC E-TEXTILES 2019 to be held Sept. 11 in Philadelphia, Pa. Topics include reliability, test methods, design, washability and materials innovation. Abstracts and proposals are due by April 10. 

Research roundup: Solar storage tank; concentric PCM module; supercooling degree improvement; more

Ben Welter - Monday, January 21, 2019

From Journal of Thermal Science:

Energy Storage Performance of a PCM in the Solar Storage Tank

From International Journal of Applied Engineering Research:

Numerical assessment of suitability of phase-change materials in a concentric PCM-module for thermal storage applications [pdf]

From International Journal of Energy Research:

Experimental measurements and numerical computation of nanofluid and microencapsulated phase change material in porous material

From IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering:

Nano-enhanced phase change material effects on the supercooling degree improvement: A review

From Renewable Energy:

Potential of ventilation systems with thermal energy storage using PCMs applied to air conditioned buildings

From Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Technology:

Thermal performance analysis of nano enhanced paraffin wax and myristic acid

From Solar Energy:

Synthesis and characterization of microencapsulated phase change materials with comb-like acrylic co-polymer shell as thermal energy storage materials
Sensible and latent heat energy storage systems for concentrated solar power plants, exergy efficiency comparison

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Thermal energy storage characteristics of myristic acid-palmitic eutectic mixtures encapsulated in PMMA shell

From Thermal Science and Engineering Progress:

Parametric analysis and optimization of an underfloor solar assisted heating system with phase change materials

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

The improved enthalpy-transforming based lattice Boltzmann model for solid-liquid phase change

From Applied Energy:

Innovative design of superhydrophobic thermal energy-storage materials by microencapsulation of n-docosane with nanostructured ZnO/SiO2 shell

From AIP Conference Proceedings:

Preparation and characterization of nanoparticle blended polymers for thermal energy storage applications

Horwath is new president of North American PCM manufacturers association

Ben Welter - Friday, December 21, 2018

Peter Horwath, chairman and CEO of Insolcorp. LLC of New London, N.C., has been chosen to lead the Phase Change Materials Industry Association of North America.

Peter HorwathRepresentatives of eight founding companies elected Horwath, right, in an e-mail vote completed this week. He replaces Joseph A. Grzyb, who announced his resignation from the post earlier this year.

The association was founded in October 2017. Its mission is to promote the development and use of phase change material in North America.

“Phase change materials have the ability to impact many industries and lives in a very positive way," Horwath said. "Our industry is growing exponentially and a manufacturers association has been much needed to create awareness, improve standardization and help drive market growth. I’m looking forward to helping launch the new association. It is an honor to work with such a great group of people and companies helping to move this industry forward.”

The association's founding members are Insolcorp; Phase Change Energy Solutions, Asheboro, N.C.; Microtek Laboratories, Dayton, Ohio; Encapsys LLC, Appleton, Wis.; Outlast LLC, Golden, Colo.; Croda Inc., Edison, N.J.; Cold Chain Technologies, Franklin, Mass.; and PureTemp LLC, Minneapolis, Minn.

PCM briefing: McGill joins Phase Change Energy Solutions as CEO; Croda is No. 3 on Britain's Most Admired Companies list

Ben Welter - Friday, December 21, 2018

Dennis McGillDennis McGill, operations advisor at Pegasus Capital Advisors, has joined Phase Change Energy Solutions as chief executive officer and chairman of the board. McGill, right, has more than 30 years of experience in senior financial and executive leadership roles. For the past three years, he has been the CEO and chairman of the board for ReCommunity Recycling of Charlotte, N.C. 

Malta Inc., a spinoff of Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, has raised $26 million in Series A funding. The Massachusetts company is developing an electro-thermal energy storage system that stores energy in the form of the thermal differential between hot and cold storage media. 

Croda International, maker of phase change materials and other specialty chemicals, is No. 3 on Management Today's list of Britain's Most Admired Companies 2018. Diageo and McDonald's took the top two spots.

• From Andrew Chang, regional operations director at Ice Energy, on LinkedIn: "Today was a major milestone for Ice Energy. We commissioned our 100th Ice Bear in the SCE LCR program in #OrangeCounty! We are currently offsetting about 1.5MW for 4 hours every day in Orange County."

MIT researchers have developed a way to use light to trigger the storage and release of waste heat from car engines and other sources. "Once melted and activated by ultraviolet light, the [phase change] material stores the absorbed heat until a beam of visible light triggers solidification and heat release," Phys.org reports. "Key to that control are added molecules that respond to light by changing shape from one that impedes solidification to one that permits it."

Nebu Block T10• Via LinkedIn: "It might not look like it, but this is how VIPs help to store energy. Vacuum insulated panels, that is. ZAE Bayern cooperates with va-Q-tec, Nebuma GmbH, Verallia, and Lungmuß Feuerfest to make industrial high-temperature energy storages more efficient and less hard to find." Nebuma's 20-foot mobile container, shown at right, is designed to store about 16 MWh of heat at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Dr. Yixiang Gan of the University of Sydney is among 11 researchers to win fellowships from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund for 2019. His focus: "Optimizing thermal energy storage with phase change materials: with applications to solar energy storage in Australia and India." 

• Registration is open for the 44th Stanford Geothermal Workshop, to be held Feb. 11-13 at Stanford University in California.

• Registration is open for Energy Storage Europe, "the leading international trade fair for energy storage," to be held March 12-14 in Dusseldorf, Germany. 

• The 14th Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29, 2019, in Bern, Switzerland, has issued a call for papers. The deadline for submissions is June 1. Registration for the conference is expected to open once the program is published in April. 

Pelican BioThermal has appointed Lynaye Reynolds as worldwide director of quality. She joined the company three years ago as the quality manager at its site in Leighton Buzzard in the United Kingdom.

1414 Degrees’ molten silicon biogas energy storage system will be installed at a wastewater treatment plant in South Australia. The $3.2 million (AUS) pilot project is a joint effort of 1414 Degrees and SA Water.

Patent application: Assembly and articulated panel for thermal insulation

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 01, 2018

U.S. patent application 20180313613 (applicant Hutchinson, Paris, France):

Hutchinson insulation patent drawing"An assembly having a structure provided with an interior volume in which is present for example at least one fluid capable of circulating in said volume and under the action of circulation means. Thermally insulating elements of VIP construction are arranged around a layer containing a PCM and extending around the peripheral wall that surrounds the volume. Protrusions fixed to the peripheral wall delimit spaces in which the thermally insulating elements are positioned. A sleeve extends around the protrusions and the insulating elements."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20180313613.pdf

PCM briefing: 'Array' radiator featured at Dutch Design Week; DLR's Sundharam among speakers at green tech conference

Ben Welter - Monday, October 29, 2018

Array radiator

• What happens when designers and scientists collaborate on new materials? Ten teams set out to answer that question over a six-month period. The results were on display at Dutch Design Week 2018 earlier this month. A metallic radiator filled with phase change materials and nanowires was one of 10 projects featured in the "What Matter_s" exhibition in Eindhoven. The "Array" radiator, the work of furniture designer Amy Wang, architect Tim Söderström and two nanotechnologists, Professor Magnus Borgström and Dr. Vilgailè Dagytè, is designed to absorb and disperse heat in reaction to changing ambient temperatures.

Prem Sundharam, global sustainability leader for DLR Group, will be among the speakers at this week's California Green Technology Schools and Community College Conference in Pasadena. "Looking forward to discussing about Zero-Net Energy Buildings, California's Duck-Curve and the application of Phase Change Materials (PCM) as an effective solution," he wrote on LinkedIn last week. "Bonus: Also sharing how to integrate innovative energy technology (PCM) into school curriculum and have students be active participants in this cutting-edge research!"  

EnergyNest thermal battery EnergyNest of Norway is partnering with the Italian utility Enel to analyze the potential for integrating industrial-scale thermal batteries into Enel’s thermal power plants. EnergyNest's battery, right, consists of steel cassettes with pipes encased in Heatcrete, a special type of concrete developed in partnership with HeidelbergCement.

• New from QY Research: "Global (United States, European Union and China) Salt Hydrate Market Research Report 2018-2025"

• As the solar industry has grown, the market has been flooded with cheaply made Chinese panels. The panels are wearing out in as little as five years, the Verge reports, and recycling isn’t economically viable right now. “It’s going to be a major problem,” said Mary Hutzler, a senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research.  

Vertellus, the specialty chemicals company based in Indianapolis, has named John Van Hulle its new chief executive officer. He previously served as president of global color and additives for Ohio-based PolyOne, and CEO of Wisconsin-based chemical supplier ChemDesign

PureTemp LLC is moving its Minnesota administrative office from Plymouth to Minneapolis, effective Oct. 31. The new address: 4232 Park Glen Road, Minneapolis, MN 55416.

• SolarReserve has been selected to receive a $2 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office to advance concentrating concentrating solar power research and development. SolarReserve's CSP technology uses molten salt as a heat transfer fluid and thermal energy storage medium. 

Design student's innovative wheelchair concept wins competition in U.K.

Ben Welter - Friday, September 28, 2018

A student’s creative take on wheelchair design has won a national competition in the United Kingdom.

Kristen Tapping, a product design student at London South Bank University, won the inaugural "Getting Back on Track" design competition held by the law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp. The contest challenged UK-based university students to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury. The law firm awarded Tapping £3000; the university awarded an additional £2,000 (a total of about $6,500).

Tapping's lightweight wheelchair features a seating material enhanced with phase change material to ensure thermal comfort and a split wheel-to-rail system that eases movement through gear reduction and wider pushing surfaces. Tapping provided details on the concept in an email interview.

Q: How did you become interested in product design?

A: "I had worked a wide array of jobs from bartender to personal trainer to TV salesperson and decided a decade after getting my first degree to get into design, something I had always been interested in but wasn't sure I would be good at. I studied a year of interior design but stopped as I felt it was too limited for what I wanted. When I came across industrial/product design, the combination of conceptual design with hands on prototyping was a perfect fit and I dived right in. I am currently on placement in Spain designing automotive interiors for Grupo Antolin."

Q: Moveo's most ingenious feature appears be the propulsion system. Reverse propulsion is used in at least one wheelchair on the market (https://www.rowheels.com/product), but your concept separates the hand wheel from the ground wheel, using a spur gear to maximize force. What inspired you to pursue this approach? Is this configuration unique, as far as wheelchairs?

Kristen TappingA: "This design challenge was specialized for people with spinal cord injuries which are quite different from others - on top of not being able to walk, many cases affect the upper body nerves leading to the inability to have dexterity and strength in the hands. With this in mind, it is exponentially harder for them to push a wheelchair rail as they cannot grab it. The other issue I noticed with all wheelchairs (that I have seen so far at least) is that the user touches the wheel when pushing the rail - I tested this myself by sitting in one and I could not push forward without coming into contact with the wheel. This is obviously not very pleasant or sanitary - would be the equivalent of a non-wheelchair user touching their hand to the base of their shoe after each step.

"The design started with the necessity for the wheel to be separate from the rail to avoid touching the wheel and give users a wider pushing surface in a material that has more inherent grip than metal (here I proposed Infinergy, a BASF/Adidas material that is made from recycled Adidas shoes). After consulting with some engineers, I made this happen through a simple spur gear mechanism where pushing the rail backwards would push the spur gear which would in turn propel the wheel forward. The pushing backwards to move forward simply came about from this spur gear mechanism, however it could be switched back to pushing forward to move forward by simply adding an additional gear. Ideally, the user would be able to manually switch back and forth between pushing forward and backwards to prevent muscle fatigue.

"As far as I know my configuration is unique in wheelchairs - I have only seen the rail being at the side of the wheel as in the standard design. As far as other products go, it follows a bicycle's basic spur gear mechanism."

Q: How did you become familiar with phase change material? Have you used it in other projects?

A: "I came across PCMs while interning at a materials firm and became really fascinated with the process they continually undergo. The reason I used them in this concept is because a less known side-effect of spinal cord injuries is the inability to self-control body temperature - the user's body may be extremely hot when it is cold out, and visa versa. I felt that using a PCM fabric on the seat would help bring down the overall body temperature to a more stable point. I have not used PCMs prior to this project however I am using it in a current concept regarding heat recovery. I am really interested to see where the technology will go - for example the recent university study that managed to activate PCM heat release with a light trigger."

Q: Can you provide details on the PCM fabric used in your design (salt hydrate/biobased/paraffin; peak melt point; energy storage capacity in joules per gram; manufacturer, etc.)?

A: "The fabric I proposed was Schoeller PCM 30092, which has a thermal storage capacity of 35,000 joules per square meter. Schoeller provides a variety of thicknesses which affect the energy storage capacity and padding/comfort level. While specifying a certain fabric would require prototyping and testing, I would suggest one with a composition of 37% polyurethane, 36% polyester and 27% paraffin."

Q: The energy storage capacity of PCM-coated fabric is much less than PCM encapsulated in flexible film. Did you consider using PCM cooling packs instead of PCM fabric?

A: "This option could be explored to see which would work best in this product. One benefit of the PCM-coated fabric is the ability to place it in the washer, something I had in mind for Moveo."

Q: What's next for the Moveo: patent application, prototypes, commercial development, etc.? Have any manufacturers expressed a commercial interest?

A: "While I doubt a patent application would be valid since this was a student competition and the details have already been made public through various publications, I would rather the concept be an inspiration to other wheelchair designers to address the wheel/rail issues stated above. Entering this competition, I wanted to design anything else than a wheelchair, but after being frustrated seeing horrible designs and how they affect the users' daily lives, I decided to give it a go. I did see an interesting student competition entry that uses handles and gears to move forward, but otherwise am disappointed with the lack of innovation from established manufacturers to solve the issue of users having to touch the wheel every time they push.

"I am currently on placement so sadly have no time at the moment to prototype it, however I may make it my final year project once back at LSBU. It would be great to partner with Cerebra to possibly make Moveo a real product, however a wheelchair needs lots of engineering and testing so partnering with an experienced manufacturer as well would make a great team."

Q: The prize includes £3,000 and the chance to undertake a week’s internship at the Cerebra research center. What do you plan to do with the cash award?

A: "London is quite an expensive city, especially on a full-time student budget, so the £3,000 will help me focus on school during my final year at LSBU.  I may also go into prototyping for my final year project.

"I definitely plan on accepting the internship with Cerebra and have talks of squeezing it between the end of my current placement and before school starts. With Cerebra's assistance, I am looking forward to being able to develop other concepts that help people with disabilities and make them come to life using their workshop."

Q: Any idea what you'd like to focus on after graduation?

A: "Really not sure. I am as excited designing a futuristic car interior than I am an ergonomic toilet brush - I just really love design. One thing I do know is I want to design useful products that have a positive impact on people's everyday lives and do not degrade the environment during usage and at end of product life. With this project and having just won the Heatrae Sadia competition (hot water cylinders), I find myself being more and more interested in smart insulation and thermal storage solutions that work sustainably with zero or little energy. With our planet's diminishing resources and increasing temperature, solutions in this field will definitely be a necessity."

PCM briefing: South African utility scraps CSP plant; Pelican BioThermal seeks Americas sales director

Ben Welter - Monday, August 27, 2018

• The second round of U.S. and China tariffs took effect last week, covering about $4.2 billion in chemicals and plastics. Based on 2017 exports to China, ICIS News says the U.S. commodity chemical products most affected are monoethylene glycol, styrene, EVA copolymers, linear low-density polyethylene, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and ethylene dichloride.

Dr. Joachim KuhnVa-Q-tec AG's management board has extended the contract of CEO Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the company's founder, through Dec. 31, 2023.

• The South African utility Eskom has decided to scrap development of the 100MW Kiwano concentrated solar power plant and instead invest the money in battery storage.

Pelican BioThermal has an opening for director of sales - Americas in the company's U.S. office in Plymouth, Minn. The director will "oversee all aspects of the growth and development of BioThermal market" in North and South America. Job candidates researching Peli may want to watch the company's latest videos, which show how to assemble the new CoolPall Flex temperature-controlled shipper.

NorthVolt has an opening for a thermal/mechanical design engineer for battery system development at the company's office in Stockholm, Sweden. NorthVolt is building one of the first European large-scale lithium-ion battery factories.

• New from TMR Research: "Thermal Energy Storage Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Trends, Analysis, Growth, and Forecast 2017 - 2025"

• New from QY Research: "Global Phase Change Materials (PCM) Market Professional Survey Report 2018"

• New from Reports and Markets: "Global Cold Chain Equipments Market Insights, Forecast to 2025"

• In an Imaginasium interview, Encapsys President Mary Goggans talks about the Appleton, Wis., microencapsulator's transition to a standalone company over the past two years.

PCM briefing: Shipping costs rise for chemical companies; Inventure to build plant in China

Ben Welter - Saturday, August 11, 2018

Viking Cold Solutions founder and board chairman Paul Robbins, who retired as president at Caribbean Shipping Services in July, says he plans to resume a more active role in the day-to-day operations at Viking. The Houston company makes TES systems that pair phase change material with intelligent controls and remote energy-monitoring software to reduce commercial refrigeration costs.  

Chemical Week reports that shipping costs are on the rise for chemical companies as capacity tightens and truck traffic shifts to railroads.  

Inventure Renewables of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is partnering with Wilmar International and Desmet Ballestra Group on a new manufacturing plant in China's Jiangsu province, the Birmingham Business Journal reports. Construction is expected to begin in 2019. The plant will use Inventure’s soap carbonate technology to convert low-value processing residues into uncontaminated free fatty acids.

Maurizio ZaglioMaurizio Zaglio‎, right, international business development manager at Sunamp Ltd., was in Hangzhou, China, this week to present the company's new products at the 2018 China Heat Pump Annual Conference.

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

ARPA-E has issued a funding opportunity of up to $35 million for the High Intensity Thermal Exchange through Materials and Manufacturing Processes program, to develop new approaches and technologies for the design and manufacture of high-temperature, high-pressure, and highly compact heat exchangers. 

• The American Chemistry Council confirmed this week that high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is on the list of U.S. petrochemicals and plastics targeted for $16 billion in retaliatory tariffs from China. "Prospects of trade war are eroding business confidence from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," says the ACC's Kevin Swift. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 2.4 percent in 2019, Morningstar reports, but economists have cut the average forecast for 2020 from 2 percent to 1.8 percent. 

Ph.D. candidate digs deep into the T-history method

Ben Welter - Friday, July 27, 2018

The lab folks at PureTemp have had a keen interest in the T-history method since our days as a tech startup with a small budget. T-history is a relatively simple, low-cost way to determine the heat of fusion, specific heat and thermal conductivity of phase change materials.

Pepe TanNew research on the topic turned up in one of our automated searches earlier this month: “Characterizing phase change materials using the T-History method: On the factors influencing the accuracy and precision of the enthalpy-temperature curve.” The lead author, Pepe Tan, is a pursuing a Ph.D. at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. I contacted him to find out more. 

Q: What prompted your interest in studying the T-history method?

A: “When I started my Ph.D. at Chalmers, T-history was a good complement to the available DSC instrument in our research group. And it was a nice opportunity to collaborate with ZAE Bayern and learn the method. While implementing the method, we found it was very worth studying certain aspects of it in parallel, because of how different the method has been presented so far in the scientific community.”

Q: Do you envision T-history replacing DSC for characterizing and validating PCMs as an industry standard? If not for PCM validation, perhaps for application engineering and thermal modeling?

A: “I definitely consider T-history and DSC as complementary methods since their limitations for finding the intrinsic PCMs properties are still subject to research. With this uncertainty, any measurement available from different sources would be useful for the engineer to carefully estimate the actual behavior of the PCM in its application.”   

Q: When do you believe T-history will be studied and validated sufficiently to become adopted as a commercially available piece of equipment?

T-history chamberA: “To reach that goal, a systematic assessment of different implementations of the method (setup and data evaluation) would be necessary. But spending this effort also depends on the current needs for accurate PCM properties in typical applications.”

Q: Will the mathematical model of the method become open-source and available for laboratories?

A: “The data evaluation method in the paper should be seen as one proposal on how to calculate the enthalpy from real experimental data. And it is presented in detail, so that it can be recreated.

“The challenge in our experiments was to negate the noise amplification when differentiating the temperature over time data. But this could be done in many different ways, which will in turn affect the enthalpy results. We made the raw experimental data available so that other data evaluation methods can be tested.”

Q: What do you view as the most significant challenge with T-history? How does this compare to the challenges associated with DSC?

A: “That would be to perform a rigorous measurement uncertainty analysis in order to specify a reliable limit for accuracy and precision in terms of an uncertainty. Since this strongly depends on the individual implementation of the method and the chosen data evaluation, the DSC is in my opinion one step ahead.”

Q: Is T-history capable of accurate and precise measurement with thermal conductivity additives or nucleating agents?

A: “This depends on the material and the actual implementation of the method. And this would be an example where the possibility to use complementary methods that utilize different sample sizes like DSC and T-history will be helpful to filter out the intrinsic material behavior. The larger sample sizes of the T-history setup should increase the chance to actually have representative samples, meaning samples containing a representative amount of the nucleating agent and/or the thermal conductivity additives."  

Q: What are your postdoctoral plans?

A: “I expect to graduate by June 2020. At the moment, I plan to wait and see what options are available when the graduation date comes a bit closer.”