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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: Thermal storage in focus at Energy Storage Europe; SaltX, Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop insulation paper

Ben Welter - Monday, March 12, 2018

• "Life Cycle Assessment of Thermal Energy Storage Materials, Components and System Concepts" (Björn Nienborg, Fraunhofer ISE) and "Development of PCM Based on the Prediction of Phase Diagrams of Salt Hydrate Mixtures" (Christoph Rathgeber, ZAE Bayern) are among more than a dozen presentations on thermal storage at this week's Energy Storage Europe expo and conference in Düsseldorf, Germany.

• The energy storage company SaltX Technology will collaborate with specialty paper producer Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop a large-scale manufacturing method for graphene-coated insulation paper. The paper will carry SaltX's patented nano coated salt, increasing the heat conductivity of the SaltX material by up to five times. 

• The March 2018 issue of the CIBSE Journal features a continuing professional development module sponsored by Monodraught: "Operating and enhancing PCM-cooled ventilation systems in office applications.

• New from Persistence Market Research: "Advanced Phase Change Material (PCM) Market - Global Industry Analysis and Forecast to 2020" and "Global Insulated Shipping Containers Market Research Report 2018"

• New from QYResearch: "Global Molten Salt Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Industry 2018 Market Research Report"

• Registration is open for an Industrial Fabrics Association International webinar on recent smart fabric applications used in a number of government, commercial, medical and consumer market segments. The cost for the March 15 webinar, initially presented in January, is $29 for association members, $79 for non-members. 

Arizona State University researchers have shed new light on the anomalous properties of water, using specially treated water mixed with another chemical. "As they changed the temperature at high pressures," Gizmodo reports, "they noticed a sharp change in the water's molecular behaviour as it seemed to change phases - from a liquid to a liquid."  

• The first Lego blocks made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugar cane will go on sale later this year. Lego’s current blocks are made from oil-based plastics.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking bids to replace a chiller at the department's Washington, D.C., headquarters. The chiller was originally installed in 1995 to make ice at night for a thermal energy storage system.

Sunamp Ltd. is among 35 finalists preparing to pitch to investors at Cleantech Innovate in London on March 20.

GTI, a not-for-profit research organization based in Illinois, has been invited to present its hybrid solar energy system project at ARPA-E's Congressional Showcase March 12. The system stores thermal energy in inert particles for on-demand use.

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.

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: Pitt professor gets $500,000 grant to study effectiveness of prosthetic liners

Ben Welter - Friday, December 22, 2017

Goeran FiedlerGoeran Fiedler, assistant professor of prosthetics and orthotics at the University of Pittsburgh, has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study temperature control liners for prosthetics. The liners use phase change material to reduce the body’s tendency to sweat. The study will follow participants over 12 months to determine whether the liners decrease the risk of pressure sores, accidental falls and other problems.

Axiom Exergy has been named to Food Logistics' FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list. The award recognized Axiom for its PCM-based "refrigeration battery," now in operation at a Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, Calif., and scheduled for installation at a Walmart store in San Diego.

HeatVentors has won 2017’s international PowerUp! competition for innovative energy start-ups. The Hungarian company's PCM-based thermal energy storage system is designed to cut energy use by up to 40 percent.

A thousand tons of rock will be used to store excess thermal energy in Siemens Gamesa's Future Energy System under construction in Hamburg, Germany.

• Registration is open for the Unleashing Innovation Summit 2018 to be held March 12-13 in Amsterdam. The goal of the event is to  "bring together cross-industry innovation leaders to share information on the latest trends and strategies relating to creating an ecosystem and culture of innovation within an organisation."

• The agenda has been posted for the Smart Fabrics Summit in Washington, D.C.  The April 24 event is hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Industrial Fabrics Association International. Topics include "Smart Fabrics Standards: A Government Regulator’s Perspective" and  "Trends in Public-Private R&D Partnerships on Smart Fabrics."

Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a Kenya-based journalist and blogger, offers a fresh take on Warmilu's IncuBlanket. The product uses packs filled with sodium acetate trihydrate to keep infants warm for up to five hours.

PCM briefing: GE ice storage project wins $221,000 grant; IFAI offers webinar on smart fabrics

Ben Welter - Friday, December 15, 2017

• A plan to install an ice storage system at GE’s new headquarters in Boston has been awarded a $221,000 grant by Massachusetts' Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage program. 

• The U.S. Department of Energy has announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of ARPA‑E's latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN 2018 is looking for innovations "to transform the way we generate, store and use energy." The deadline for submitting a concept paper is Feb. 12, 2018.

• Early registration prices for the 2018 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit have been extended to Dec. 31. The summit, which showcases innovative energy technologies, will be held March 13-15 at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, D.C. The agenda is still "coming soon." The deadline to submit an application to exhibit in the Technology Showcase is Jan. 2.

• Registration is open for an Industrial Fabrics Association International webinar on recent smart fabric applications used in a number of government, commercial, medical and consumer market segments. The cost for the Jan. 17 webinar is $29 for association members, $79 for non-members.

• Registration is open for the 34th Space Symposium, to be held April 16-19, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Exhibitors include Advanced Cooling Technologies and Aavid Thermacore Inc.

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins has accepted an invitation to become a member of the Committee for Economic Development of the Conference Board. The CED is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization founded in 1942.

• In an interview with Forbes, co-CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell explain Sasol's $11 billion bet on specialty chemicals.

• Registration is open for "Single-Use vs. Reusable Packaging: Providing value for your product," the next webinar in Sonoco ThermoSafe's temperature assurance packaging series. Chris Anderson, director of quality systems at Cardinal Health, and Vishal Khushalani, director of marketing and business development at Sonoco ThermoSafe, will lead the one-hour class, to be held Jan 9.

• The BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, to be held in Philadelphia July 16-19, 2018, is seeking proposals for company and technical presentations. Presentations are 13 minutes long, including a brief introduction and Q&A with the audience. Proposals must be submitted by May 14.

Patent application: Lightweight, breathable, waterproof, soft shell composite apparel

Ben Welter - Monday, December 11, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170347730 (applicant Solid Water Holdings, Farmington, Maine):

"The apparel is constructed from various combinations of layers of materials with moisture transfer properties. A first liner of moisture transfer fabrics abuts a second layer of structural material such as open-cell foam. The second layer can abut a breathable membrane and/or an insulating material. ... The breathable moisture transfer composite system may be enhanced with Phase Change Technologies for additional thermal benefits and may be used as a single layer or composite layer in the moisture transfer system."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170347730.pdf

Research roundup: Direct steam generation solar plants; d-mannitol-copper oxide nanocomposites; modified carbon nanotubes; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Thermal energy storage evaluation in direct steam generation solar plants [Solar Energy]

Potential of cascaded phase change materials in enhancing the performance of solar domestic hot water systems [Solar Energy]

Study of thermo-physical properties and cycling stability of d-Mannitol-copper oxide nanocomposites as phase change materials [Journal of Energy Storage]

Properties Enhancement of Phase-change Materials via Silica and Al Honeycomb Panels for the Thermal Management of LiFeO4 Batteries [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Experimental Investigation and Mathematical Modelling of Thermal Performance Characteristics of Textiles Incorporating Phase Change Materials [Environmental Engineering, 10th International Conference]

Thermal storage of solar energy [Physical Rendering]

Studies on the inward spherical solidification of a phase change material dispersed with macro particles [Journal of Energy Storage]

Review of latent heat thermal energy storage for improved material stability and effective load management [Journal of Energy Storage]

The effects of modified carbon nanotubes on the thermal properties of erythritol as phase change materials [Energy Conversion and Management]

Experimental study on the cooling charge and discharge characteristics of a PCM based fin-tube thermal energy storage exchanger [Procedia Engineering]

Energy Saving Potential of PCMs in Buildings under Future Climate Conditions [pdf] [Applied Sciences]

Experimental study of carbon fiber reinforced alkali-activated slag composites with micro-encapsulated PCM for energy storage [Construction and Building Materials]

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: Active vs. passive shipping solutions; registration open for Energy Innovation Summit

Ben Welter - Monday, November 20, 2017

• Registration is open for "Active vs. Passive Solutions: Which one is for me?" the next webinar in Sonoco ThermoSafe's temperature assurance packaging series. Ben Vanderplas, global product manager at Sonoco ThermoSafe, and David Bang, CEO of DHL LifeConEx, will lead the one-hour class, to be held Dec. 12.

Brooklyn Bedding's new Aurora mattress collection features TitanCool technology, "a phase change surface infusion" with "high conductivity properties."

• New from Transparency Market Research: "Thermal Management Technologies Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2017 - 2027"

The UV-activated thermal energy storage material shows the rapid crystallization and heat discharge upon visible light (blue LED) illumination. (Grossman Group at MIT)MIT researchers have combined conventional phase change material with an organic compound that responds to a pulse of light. "The new system," MIT News reports, "uses molecular switches that change shape in response to light; when integrated into the PCM, the phase-change temperature of the hybrid material can be adjusted with light, allowing the thermal energy of the phase change to be maintained even well below the melting point of the original material." The system could be used in a thermal battery to store heat from the sun or any other source and release the heat when needed.

• Registration for the 2018 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit is open. The event, to be held March 13-15 at the Gaylord Convention Center, outside Washington, D.C., showcases emerging energy technologies. No agenda yet.

• Researchers at the University of Maryland College Park have developed a method of fabricating fibers with boron nitride and polyvinyl alcohol using 3D print technologies which allows heat to be transferred away from the body.  Clothes made with the nanocomposite thread could help keep wearers cool in hot conditions.

Stanford University researchers have developed a reversible fabric that keeps skin a comfortable temperature whatever the weather. "On one side," Stanford News reports, "a copper coating traps heat between a polyethylene layer and the skin; on the other, a carbon coating releases heat under another layer of polyethylene." The fabric can either warm or cool the wearer, depending which side faces out.

PCM briefing: Survey finds chemists think field is short on innovation; Lufthansa Cargo partners with va-Q-tec

Ben Welter - Monday, October 30, 2017

• A recent survey by Reaxys found that many chemists don’t think the field is innovative enough. Eighty percent said there is too much emphasis on research with industrial applications, which is stifling innovation. Reaxys is a chemistry research tool developed by Elsevier

Min Zhu, assistant professor of textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, will speak about the future of phase change materials at a textiles conference in New York City Nov. 8. 

Lufthansa Cargo has partnered with va-Q-tec AG to offer the temperature-controlled specialist's va-Q-tainer thermal containers across the German carrier’s global network.

• Scientists investigating how scavenging animals are adapting to the monoculture palm oil plantations in Borneo were surprised by what turned up in their traps. "In the jungles and border regions, the team found animals such as civets, otters, mongooses and pigs," Oils & Fats International magazine reports. "But the closer they got to the plantations where the land had been disturbed and human activity was frequent, the fewer species they found until only one stood out – the Southeast Asian water monitor." The big lizards are thriving, thanks to a plentiful supply of food and less competition from mammalian scavengers and predators. 

• Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a thermally conductive and strong textile from fibers of aligned boron nitride nanosheets embedded in a polymer matrix that can cool a person down by up to 2° C.