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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: 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. 

PCM briefing: Ecozen Solutions wins Ashden Award; Fraunhofer researchers among winners in Imagine Chemistry challenge

Ben Welter - Monday, June 11, 2018

Ecozen cold storage unit

Ecozen Solutions of India, which makes portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, is one of six international winners in the 2018 Ashden Awards competition. The Ecofrost system's thermal storage unit can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather. The organizations will be honored at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday, June 14. 

Axel Kraft and Martin Peters of Fraunhofer UMSICHT are among the winners of the 2018 AkzoNobel Imagine Chemistry challenge. Kraft and Peters will receive support from LuxResearch to further develop a catalytic process for making alcohols from more sustainable raw materials. Overall, 10 startups and researchers were chosen as winners from a group of 20 finalists at a three-day event held at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden.

A call for papers has been issued for the 10th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation and Energy Conservation in Buildings. Topics include ventilation strategies and measurement techniques; HVAC systems; smart technologies for zero-energy buildings; and design and energy modeling. Abstracts are due by Nov. 1. The conference will be held Sept. 5-7, 2019, in Bari, Italy.  

• Researchers at the Jülich Solar Tower test facility in Germany have reached a milestone in the development of a new receiver concept for solar tower power plants. During a test of the centrifugal receiver CentRec for the generation and storage of solar high temperature heat, an average particle temperature of 965 degrees Celsius has been measured at the receiver outlet. The bauxite particles used in the system are available at prices that enable cost-effective thermal storage. “The proof of the high operating temperature is an essential condition for the targeted commercialization of this new receiver concept,” said Dr. Reiner Buck, head of solar tower systems at the DLR Institute of Solar Research

• June 15 is the last day to get the early bird rate for this year's Advancements in Thermal Management Conference (Denver, Aug. 8-9). Topics include thermal materials, thermal imaging, thermal characterization, modeling, battery cooling and thermal simulation. Joe Kelly, senior materials scientist at Outlast Technologies, is among the speakers. His topic: "Enhancing Thermal Stability and Performance of Lithium-ion Batteries using Latent Heat Storage (LHS) Technology."

Research roundup: Nanofluid-based PCMs; microencapsulation of n-alkanes; finned solar PV PCM; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, May 31, 2018

From Chemical Engineering Journal:

Glycolysis of Advanced Polyurethanes Composites containing Thermoregulating Microcapsules

From Applied Thermal Engineering:
From Applied Energy:

From International Journal of Thermal Sciences:

From Chemical Engineering Science:

PCM briefing: PCM symposium in Würzburg; research opening at CIC Energigune

Ben Welter - Friday, March 02, 2018

• The 2nd symposium on the use of PCM in buildings will take place March 14-15 in Würzburg, Germany. It is part of the demonstration project PCM Demo II. The free event is aimed at specialists and decision makers who would like to get informed about the topic, such as architects, planners, building physicists, energy consultants, municipalities and building cooperatives. Thomas Wollheim of va-Q-tec AGThomas Haussmann of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Felix Klinker of ZAE Bayern and Felix Pawelz of Rubitherm are among the scheduled speakers.  

Outlast Technologies of Golden, Colo., will be among the exhibitors at the International Battery Seminar & Exhibit March 27-29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Betabrand Microclimate Office WrapOutlast is using LinkedIn to showcase Outlast partners and their newest products. First up: Betabrand's Microclimate Office Wrap, a lightweight cardigan-style wrap designed to regulate body temperature "for all-day comfort." 

• The environmental group CDP reports that more than 100 cities worldwide now get the majority of their power (70 percent or more) from renewables. And a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency confirms the potential for increased use of renewable energy in Europe's heating and cooling sector.

• New from Coherent Market Insights: "Chilled Water Storage Systems by Market ... Opportunity Analysis, 2017-2025"

• New from Global Market Insights: "Phase Change Materials Market Size By Product (Paraffin, Non-Paraffin, Salt Hydrates, Eutectics) ... Competitive Market Share & Forecast, 2017-2024"

CIC Energigune, an energy research center in Spain's Basque Country, is looking to fill a post-doctoral position in its Thermal Energy Storage group. The selected candidate will focus on the development of advanced PCMs tailored for TES applications at low to medium temperatures, including solid-solid PCMs, shape-stabilized PCMs and encapsulated PCMs.   

• In an Accenture survey of 360 chemical companies in 12 countries, 80 percent of respondents said they are increasing their investments in digital technologies for plants, in particular plant management and product quality. 

• The final agenda has been released for the ARPA-E Summit in Washington, D.C., March 13-15. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is among the speakers. Also on tap: A discussion of "High Power Systems and Thermal Management Challenges in Defense" and a demonstration of an "Additively Manufactured Record High Thermal Conductivity Polymer Composite Heat Exchanger."

• Two Fraunhofer CSE projects, SunDial and Energy Storage Integration Lab, were on display Friday at the MIT Energy Conference Showcase in Cambridge, Mass. SunDial is an energy storage and distribution management system. The ESI Lab simulates a connected home of the future with a range of electric devices, including rooftop solar, energy storage, smart loads and EV charging. 

• Leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement could cost the United States $22 billion in lost chemical exports and create a tariff burden of up to $9 billion, the American Chemistry Council says.

Inspired by nature, 'active energy building' takes wing in Liechtenstein

Ben Welter - Thursday, February 08, 2018

Marxer Haus, west side

The Marxer building on a rare sun-splashed January morning in Vaduz.

An “active energy building” bristling with new technology has officially spread its sophisticated wings in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

The six-year project was directed by Anton Falkeis and his wife, Cornelia Falkeis-Senn, world-renowned architects based in Vienna. Their client, Liechtenstein attorney and banker Peter Marxer, challenged them to design a sustainable apartment building that relies as much as possible on renewable energy.

A team that included energy experts from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts was assembled for the complex task. Countless hours of planning, research, design work, computer modeling and prototyping produced a number of innovations used in the 12-unit Marxer building, including:

• An array of 13 photovoltaic panels that rise from the roof and track the sun’s path across the sky, optimizing the collection of solar energy.

• Load-bearing structures that mimic nature in appearance and function.

• “Acoustically active” three-dimensional interior lighting elements that act as sound diffusors and absorbers.

Anton Falkeis and climate wing
Anton Falkeis and one of the PCM-filled climate wings.
• Seven “climate wings” that fold out of the building facade and absorb, store and release thermal energy as needed to keep the interior comfortable.

The computer-controlled solar panels, which measure up to 14 square meters, rise from the roof at sunrise and turn with the sun during the day. When night falls or inclement weather approaches, the panels automatically fold back into the roof. The system is said to collect nearly three times the solar energy of stationary panels.

Anton Falkeis described the project as a “prototype for a decentralized urban energy production system that’s part of a bigger network.”

“We created an energy cluster with the surrounding buildings, some of which are owned by the same client,” he said. “We share the energy generated by our PV trackers embedded in the roof structure first with the cluster. We sell any surplus to the grid. The utility can use the surplus to refill the hydro power plant storage.”

The climate wings contain 1.4 metric tons of Rubitherm PCM enclosed in aluminum tubes.

Climate wing detail
Each climate wing contains rows of PCM-filled aluminum tubes.

Four wings on the building’s western side are dedicated to heating. They are filled with PCM that has a melting point of 31 degrees Celsius. In cold months, these wings open during the day, exposing the PCM to solar radiation that melts the material. Each wing folds back at night and connects to ventilation systems in the adjoining apartments. The tubes release heat as the PCM solidifies, and low-power fans move the warm air throughout the apartments.

Three wings on the eastern side are dedicated to cooling. The PCM in these has a melting point of 21 degrees C. In summer, the wings open at night, allowing cool air to solidify the PCM. Each wing folds back against the building during the day and connects to the adjoining ventilation systems. Indoor air is cooled as it flows past the frozen PCM in the wing.

Climate wing detail
Ducts carry air warmed by PCM into the apartments.
With a surface area of 24 square meters, the western wings are said to generate about 10 percent of heating capacity. The eastern wings, with a surface of 15 square meters, generate around 16 percent of cooling capacity.

How did the team address flammability issues associated with biobased PCM?

“We developed the encapsulation so that no oxygen can come in contact with the PCM,” Falkeis said. “The whole thing was tested to 300 degrees Celsius, heating up, cooling down, heating up. And finally we got permission by the building commission, a Swiss testing certificate, to use it in the building envelope. Swiss testing accreditation is valid all over Europe.”

Aside from patent applications, what’s next for all this ground-breaking technology? 

“We need to reduce complexity and try to produce more standardized building envelope panels or systems that could be part of a regular building system,” Falkeis said. “This is our next step: Reducing the complexity in terms of form.”

He also hopes to spread awareness. "Active energy building" technology was on display at a New York City exhibition that ended in January. The exhibit opens in Los Angeles on March 1; after that, it will be on display in Vienna and Berlin.

Now that the complex project is complete and the first tenants have moved in, the architect says he is "very happy" with the results.

“There’s a lot of architectural and technological detailing,” he said. “There are more than 800 drawings just on detail. It’s very precise. It’s very well done. Very high standards. It’s really crazy how finally everything came out like we planned it.  It was six years of hard work, being on site, checking everything. …  It was a sort of never-ending ongoing research project. It was really exciting to be part of this.”

Marxer Haus, east side

The east side of Marxer building faces a small park, a biking trail and a creek.

PCM briefing: Israeli startup introduces IceBrick; Ulster University launches energy storage research project

Ben Welter - Monday, February 05, 2018

Nostromo Energy of Israel has introduced the IceBrick, an energy storage system designed to store and discharge an amount of energy equivalent to 25 kWh of electricity consumed by cooling systems at peak demand hours. The 2,000-pound IceBrick contains plain water and a proprietary nucleate.

• A new report from Environment New York, an advocacy organization, says rising renewable energy production means that energy storage is ready for prime time. Thermal storage, utility-scale batteries and pumped-storage hydro are among the technologies discussed in the report, "Making Sense of Energy Storage: How Storage Technologies Can Support a Renewable Energy Future."

Ulster University of Northern Ireland has announced 6.7-million-euro cross-border research project to develop energy storage ideas for consumers. The European Union-funded project will explore energy storage methods such as thermochemical material storage and heat pump design. 

• The European Parliament has voted in favor of a proposal that would remove palm oil-based biodiesel from the European Union's list of renewable fuels by 2021. Indonesia and Malaysia, two of the world’s largest palm oil producers, have been increasingly critical of EU’s plans to phase out palm oil biodiesel, with both countries threatening retaliation in trade and taking the matter to the World Trade Organization.

• A CALMAC thermal energy storage system has helped Kings County Courthouse in Hanford, Calif., achieve LEED Silver Certification and reduce annual energy costs by more than $100,000. 

AkzoNobel is accepting submissions for its 2018 Imagine Chemistry initiative. The company's specialty chemicals unit is seeking to partner with startups and academics to bring innovative ideas to market.

• New in 2018: Membership in the American Oil Chemists' Society now includes free online access to three AOCS publications: the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society; the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents; and Lipids.

Pluss Advanced Technologies of India, maker of the MiraCradle neonate cooler, has signed a collaboration agreement with Dräger, a German-based medical and safety technology company, to spread use of the PCM-enabled device in Asia and Africa.

• Netherland's Eindhoven University of Technology has openings for three Ph.D. positions involved in the study of crystal hydrate heat storage.  

• A Spanish university that has developed new biobased phase change materials with enhanced thermal properties is looking for industrial partners interested in a technical cooperation or a license agreement. 

PCM briefing: va-Q-tec opens North American headquarters; Viking Cold Solutions begins Phoenix-area installation

Ben Welter - Friday, January 19, 2018

• PCM maker va-Q-tec AG officially opened its new North American headquarters in Langhorne, Penn., this week. Va-Q-tec will use the 20,000-square-foot facility to showcase new products and to manufacture its small temperature-control shipping containers. The location will also serve as a hub for the company's rental and repair operation. “The investment in this new facility is a testament to our commitment to grow the business and expand our footprint in North America," said CEO Dr. Joachim Kuhn.

Drones that deliver sterile mosquitoes in the fight against the Zika virus will be field tested in Latin America early this year. The system, developed by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture's Insect Pest Control Laboratory, uses phase change material to keep the mosquitoes inactive during transportation. 

• New from Greentech Media: "The Next Five Years in Energy Storage According to 500 Energy Professionals"

• New from Global Info Research: "North America Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Market by Manufacturers, Countries, Type and Application, Forecast to 2022"

• New from Technavio: "Global Advanced Phase Change Materials Market 2017-2021

Viking Cold Solutions has begun installing its PCM-based thermal energy storage system in a 10,000-square-foot freezer at the Bashas food distribution center in the Phoenix area. The system, which consists of salt-hydrate-filled panels suspended from warehouse ceilings, is designed to significantly reduce energy costs by shifting peak demand to nighttime hours.

• The cost of renewable energy is falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity than fossil fuels by 2020, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency

Utility Dive takes a close look at Nantucket Island's "hybrid" plan to add energy storage, including thermal storage, to stave off expensive grid enhancements.

PCM briefing: Cleanergy to develop solar TES in Morocco; SpaceX has opening for a thermal engineer

Ben Welter - Friday, January 12, 2018

Cleanergy AB of Sweden and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy have agreed on a framework to jointly develop a thermal energy storage system using Cleanergy's Stirling-based solar electricity technology.

• Applications are being accepted for the World Materials Forum Startup Challenge. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for the competition, which recognizes technical or organizational breakthroughs in one of five categories, including materials composition, product design and 3D manufacturing. The winning company will receive a 50,000 euro award at the World Materials Forum in June in Nancy, France.

Grace Hsia, co-founder and CEO of Warmilu LLC, is among 14 entrepreneurs in the running for the $1 million top prize in the WeWork Creator Awards Global competition. The winner will be announced in New York City on Jan. 17.

• Prize money totaling 52,500 euros, financed by Germany's National Climate Initiative, is up for grabs in the German Refrigeration Prize 2018 competition, honoring innovations in air conditioning and refrigeration. The entry deadline is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced at the Berlin Energy Days conference in May.

SpaceX is seeking candidates for the position of thermal engineer.  

Pacific Gas & Electric will introduce a new electric time-of-use rate in April. The California utility says the optional rate will make energy use more efficient and minimize peak demand challenges. The peak pricing will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bain & Co. has analyzed how chemical companies can "demystify" the R&D process. Among the three common "failure modes" Bain identified: "strong team running in too many directions."

Buro Happold associate Mark Dowson will speak on the topic of "phase change materials for ultimate thermal efficiency" at the 2018 Materials for Architecture conference in London in April.

Extremely high-temperature TES prototype under development in Europe

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 03, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7huVnCnK8s

At seven locations around Europe, a consortium of universities, R&D centers and an Italian company is investigating materials and devices for thermal energy storage at temperatures of up to 2000º C, well beyond the maximum operating temperatures of systems in use today.

The AMADEUS project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, aims to build a prototype of a system that stores electricity in the form of extremely dense heat, using a solid state device known as a hybrid thermionic-photovoltaic converter. The project’s success hinges on the development of novel silicon and boron alloys with melting temperatures well above 1000º C and energy densities of more than 1 kilowatt hour per liter.

Alejandro DatasAlejandro Datas, a research scientist at the Technical University of Madrid’s Institute of Solar Energy, is the project’s scientific coordinator. He responded to questions about the project by email.

Q: What is your role as scientific coordinator?

A: My role is to coordinate the project activities and make them converge at the end in a single prototype, which will demonstrate the feasibility of this new concept. I’m also involved in the development of the infrared-sensitive PV cell (or thermophotovoltaic cell) that will be used to convert radiant heat into electricity in these systems.

Q: Work on the project began about seven months ago and is scheduled to continue through 2019. What important milestones have you reached so far, and what are the next important milestones?

A: During the first six months of the project, we have characterized some Si-B alloys with different compositions to determine their most important thermophysical parameters, such as latent heat and thermal conductivity. By means of solubility and wettability experiments, we have also studied the interaction of these alloys with some nitride- and carbide- refractories that are intended to be used for the container walls. Also, we have fabricated an experimental setup that will enable the characterization of the energy converters at very high temperatures. The next expected milestones will be the fabrication of the first generation of hybrid thermionic-photovoltaic converters, as well as the determination of the optimal Si-B alloy composition based on an exhaustive analysis of their thermophysical properties and their reactivity with the container walls.

Q: Can you describe, briefly, the PCM you are developing, and what is meant by "the silicon-boron system"?

A: The Si-B system refers to an alloy containing silicon and boron elements in some specific proportions. Silicon and boron have two of the highest latent heats among all the elements in the periodic table. But they show some important drawbacks: in the case of silicon, it expands upon solidification (like water) which leads to very severe constraints for the vessel design; in the case of boron, it has a high cost. The Si-B system is expected to exploit the best of both elements. For instance, the eutectic composition of this alloy (having only 5% of boron) is expected to notably improve the properties of pure silicon PCM at a reasonable cost increment. In brief, Si-B alloys have potential to meet the main requirements for being considered an ideal PCM: low cost, high latent heat and high thermal conductivity. Surprisingly, very little attention has been paid to this system so far, and to our knowledge, AMADEUS is the very first project to investigate these materials in detail for energy storage applications.

Q: What are some of the PCM containment materials and structures under consideration?

A: One advantage of Si-B PCMs is their high thermal conductivity. Thus, they could be stored in relatively large containers without needing very advanced encapsulation arrangements. This minimizes the impact of the container in the final cost of the system. In order to achieve the minimum interaction between the container and the Si-B PCM, we are investigating several kinds of vessel liners based on nitrides (e.g. BN or Si3N4), carbides (e.g. SiC) and oxides (e.g. SiO2).

Q: How does AMADEUS differ from the molten silicon storage technology under development by 1414 Degrees in Australia?

A: Apparently, 1414 Degrees uses pure silicon PCM and “conventional” dynamic engines to transform latent heat into electricity. 1414 Degrees probably needs to reach the market soon, so that they must use reliable and mature technologies. In AMADEUS we are exploring new technologies with greater potential that still require further development. This is the case of Si-B alloys, which may enable higher energy densities and more efficient vessel designs. This is also the case of the thermionic and thermophotovoltaic converters, which will eventually enable more efficient, compact and simpler systems, not requiring working fluids or moving parts. We certainly hope that companies such as 1414 Degrees, and others that could start activities in the near future, could benefit from the results of AMADEUS project.

PCM briefing: Managing heat in low-orbit satellites; Expert Forum on VDI 2164 canceled

Ben Welter - Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roccor LLC of Longmont, Colo., is using phase change material in a device designed to manage internal heat in low-orbit satellites. “We have one product with paraffin wax inside a flat structure. When the spacecraft is hot, it dumps heat into that paraffin wax and turns that into a liquid — basically a store of energy,” Chris Pearson, Roccor’s vice president of space programs, said in an interview with Via Satellite. The heat is later released into the satellite to keep temperatures stable.

• A new research portal for energy-optimized construction summarizes some of the funding measures of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology under one umbrella. The German-language site, www.projektinfos.energiewendebauen.de, also has research on thermal energy storage and provides examples of projects and activities that apply PCM to optimize the energy needs of buildings.

Lloyds reports that Maersk Line is planning to make advanced monitoring data on premium perishables and pharma products available to its shipping customers later this year. 

• New from Research and Markets: "Global District Cooling Market By Type and Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2012-2026"

• New from HJResearch: "Global Bio-Based Phase Change Materials Industry Market Research 2017"

Pluss Advanced Technologies of Gurgaon, India, is seeking candidates for the position of research associate to design and perform experiments for the development of inorganic and organic phase change materials.

• The Swedish environmental group ChemSec has launched a free website linking companies selling alternatives to hazardous chemicals with those seeking to buy them. The first product request posted on The Marketplace: Clothing retailer H&M is looking for alternatives to the bisphenol A used in thermal paper for cash register and credit card receipts.

Celsia Inc.'s redesigned website, celsiainc.com, features a heat pipe performance calculator, a spreading delta-T calculator and a heat sink size calculator.

Glacier Tek, maker of cooling vests powered by PureTemp phase change material, has launched a redesigned website at www.glaciertek.com. The new site features improved navigation, fresh photography and a new tagline: "Prepare to be Cool."

• The City Council of Goderich, Ontario, has approved a proposal by NRStor to build a 1.75-megawatt compressed air energy storage plant in an unused salt cavern. The electricity created will feed into Ontario's energy grid.

• The Expert Forum on VDI Guideline 2164, scheduled for June 20 in Düsseldorf, Germany, has been canceled. The forum, organized by the Association of German Engineers' building and building technology group in cooperation with the RAL Quality Association PCM, may be held at a later date.