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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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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: Online master's degree in thermal energy storage; Alexium appoints new CFO

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza• The enrollment period is open for an online master's degree program on thermal energy storage. The program, offered by the University of Lleida and the University of Barcelona, includes "training in technical aspects of TES and the energy system, but it also includes soft skills in patenting and entrepreneurship." The program is directed by Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza of the University of Lleida. 

Siemens Gamesa held a topping-out ceremony this week for its 30MWh electric thermal energy storage facility in Hamburg-Altenwerder, Germany. The pilot facility, which stores energy in 1,000 tons of rock fill at temperatures of 600º C, is in its final phase of construction and due to be fully commissioned in 2019.

• Lauren Boteler, a thermal/packaging engineer for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, has been named Woman Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Electronics Packaging and Photonics Division.

Indonesia has imposed a three-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations and ordered a review of existing ones in an effort to address sustainability and environmental concerns.  

• The U.S. patent system, the first in the world to incentivize large numbers of ordinary citizens to innovate, has long been ranked No. 1 in the world. But over the past few years the system has fallen to 12th. Forbes reports that Andrei Iancu, the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is working to turn that around and "bring about a much-needed revitalization of the American patent system."

Alexium International has appointed Jason Lewis as chief financial officer, succeeding Aaron Krech, who resigned effective Sept. 30. Lewis has over 20 years of experience in financial roles in the specialty chemicals industry. Alexium also announced the appointment of Allen Reihman as chief commercial officer. He will lead the company’s sales, marketing and technology commercialization efforts. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

Research roundup: Myristic acid with ethyl cellulose shell; phase-change acoustic heat engine; hybrid personal cooling system; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 25, 2018

From Applied Energy:

Microencapsulation and thermal properties of myristic acid with ethyl cellulose shell for thermal energy storage
Fast and experimentally validated model of a latent thermal energy storage device for system level simulations
Numerical simulation and experimental validation of the solar photovoltaic/thermal system with phase change material
Low-temperature energy conversion using a phase-change acoustic heat engine

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Exploring additives for improving the reliability of zinc nitrate hexahydrate as a phase change material (PCM)

From Energy:

Laboratory assessment of residential building walls containing pipe-encapsulated phase change materials for thermal management
Review on thermal performances and applications of thermal energy storage systems with inorganic phase change materials

From Nano Energy:

Nanoconfinement effects on thermal properties of nanoporous shape-stabilized composite PCMs: A review

From International Journal of Thermal Sciences:

Study of heat and fluid flow during melting of PCM inside vertical cylindrical tube

From Building and Environment:

A new hybrid personal cooling system (HPCS) incorporating insulation pads for thermal comfort management: Experimental validation and parametric study

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

An analytical technique for the optimal designs of tube-in-tank thermal energy storage systems using PCM

From 2nd International conference on Advances in Mechanical Engineering:

Study of freezing characteristics of water based grapheme Nano-fluid PCM in a spherical capsule [pdf]
Enhancement of thermal conductivity of PCM using filler graphite powder materials [pdf]

From 10th International Conference on Applied Energy:

A Numerical Investigation into the Heat Transfer and Melting Process of Lauric Acid in a Rectangular Enclosure with Three Values of Wall Heat Flux

Research roundup: Concrete with shape-stable PCM; carbon nanotube laden with D-Mannitol; inorganic PCMs in metal capsules

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 20, 2018

From MATEC Web of Conferences:

Thermal Properties of Concrete Incorporated with Shape-stable Phase Change Material [pdf]

From Advanced Powder Technology:

Multi-walled carbon nanotube laden with D-Mannitol as phase change material: Characterization and experimental investigation

From Advances in Polymer Technology:

The influence of emulsifiers on preparation and properties of microencapsules of melamine–urea–formaldehyde resins with n‐dodecanol as phase change material

From Materials:

Macro-Encapsulation of Inorganic Phase-Change Materials (PCM) in Metal Capsules

Research roundup: Heat capacities of potential organic PCMs; asphalt binders; novel smart textile; modeling hysteresis; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 18, 2018

From Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics:

Heat capacities of potential organic phase change materials

From Renewable Energy:

Effects of microencapsulated phase change materials on the performance of asphalt binders
An improved, generalized effective thermal conductivity method for rapid design of high temperature shell-and-tube latent heat thermal energy storage systems
Multi-objective optimisation of thermal energy storage using phase change materials for solar air systems

From Energy:

A comprehensive study of properties of paraffin phase change materials for solar thermal energy storage and thermal management applications
Evaluation of a novel solar driven sorption cooling/heating system integrated with PCM storage compartment

From Chemical Engineering Journal:

Shape-stabilized phase change materials based on porous supports for thermal energy storage applications
Novel smart textile with phase change materials encapsulated core-sheath structure fabricated by coaxial electrospinning

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Experimental research on the effective heating strategies for a phase change material based power battery module
Modeling hysteresis in the phase transition of industrial-grade solid/liquid PCM for thermal energy storages

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Determination of heat transfer coefficients in direct contact latent heat storage systems

PCM briefing: UCF wins $360,000 grant to develop solar storage module; Nike unveils prototype cooling vest

Ben Welter - Monday, September 17, 2018

• The University of Central Florida was awarded a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation last month to develop and commercialize a grid-connected solar storage module. UCF is partnering with battery maker AllCell Technology to develop the system, known as iPV++. The system will use smart inverters and battery management to deliver stable and predictable PV-based solar power for grid-tied applications. AllCell phase change composite material will provide passive thermal management of the system's lithium-ion battery modules. Dr. Issa Batarseh, UCF electrical engineering professor and the project principal investigator, says use of the material "guarantees the safety of the battery modules, simplifies the installation and maintenance, and significantly increases lifetime due to temperature control.”

Nike prototype cooling vest• A prototype cooling vest developed by the Nike Sport Research Lab made its public debut at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., earlier this month. Scorching heat and high humidity marked the tennis tournament's later rounds, prompting players to do whatever they could to stay cool. Rafael Nadal, right, was among the players seen wearing the vest courtside. The form-fitting vest features four cooling packs -- two in the front and two in the back -- to quickly cool down players between sets and before and after matches. Nike declined to answer questions about the vest, but it appears similar to phase change vests already on the market, including versions made by TechNiche and Glacier Tek.

Peli BioThermal, the temperature-controlled packaging company, has opened a service center in Indianapolis. The company says the 50,000-square-foot facility will be one of the largest in Peli's Credo on Demand network.

Registration is open for the next ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, to be held in Denver, Colo., July 8-10, 2019. The 10th annual conference and technology showcase will "bring together experts from different technical disciplines and professional communities to think about America’s energy challenges in new and innovative ways." 

• Australian energy storage startup 1414 Degrees began trading on the Australian Securities Exchange last week after raising $16.3 million AUS as part of its initial public offering. The company's technology stores electricity as thermal energy by heating an melting containers full of silicon at a fraction of the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

NETenergy, a Chicago startup that licenses technology developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, plans to commercialize its hybrid air-conditioning system with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The $500,000 grant was awarded to NETenergy's partner, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The International Copper Association and Ingersoll-Rand are commercial partners on the grant, which will provide cash and in-kind matching funds. The technology uses phase change composites to store cold energy, allowing customers to shift A/C production to off-peak hours, when electricity is cheaper. 

• Costs for U.S. chemical distributors could rise by nearly $1.3 billion if the United States imposes tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from China, according to an analysis by John Dunham & Associates. Job losses could top 5,900, the analysis said.

Research roundup: Thermoplastic polyurethane blends; simulation of supercooling and convection; battery thermal management; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From Frontiers in Materials:

Thermoplastic polyurethane blends with thermal energy storage/release capability

From Energies:

Review of Reactors with Potential Use in Thermochemical Energy Storage in Concentrated Solar Power Plants

From Progress in Computational Fluid Dynamics:

Towards the simulation of supercooling and convection in phase change materials using a thermal lattice Boltzmann method

From Nanomaterials:

Palm Kernel Shell Activated Carbon as an Inorganic Framework for Shape-Stabilized Phase Change Material

From Journal of Power Sources:

A comprehensive review on a passive (phase change materials) and an active (thermoelectric cooler) battery thermal management system and their limitations

From Applied Energy:

Process integration of thermal energy storage systems – Evaluation methodology and case studies

From Journal of Nanomaterials:

Effects of Biceramic AlN-SiC Microparticles on the Thermal Properties of Paraffin for Thermal Energy Storage

PCM briefing: AOCS issues call for papers; EnergyNest making thermal batteries in Rotterdam

Ben Welter - Monday, September 10, 2018

• The American Oil Chemists' Society has issued a call for papers for its 2019 meeting and expo, May 5-8 in St. Louis, Mo. Topics include new technologies for oil processing; oleochemicals and green chemistry; and advanced methods of analysis, including automation. The deadline for priority consideration is Nov. 1. After that date, submissions will be considered as time and space permit.

EnergyNest thermal batteryEnergyNest announced that manufacturing of its industrial-scale thermal batteries has begun at the company's new hub in Rotterdam. The battery, shown at right, consists of steel cassettes with pipes encased in Heatcrete, a special type of concrete developed in partnership with HeidelbergCement

• A number of prospective postdoc researchers and their advisors are exploring the possibility of remote work, citing work/life balance and other advantages. "The setup is not without challenges," The Scientist reports, "from simple communication difficulties to feelings of isolation, leaving postdocs to come up with bespoke solutions to their unusual situations." 

Registration is open for the 2019 ASHRAE Winter Conference, to be held Jan. 12-16 in Atlanta. The conference's technical program will feature more than 100 sessions and 300 speakers. Five full-day and 15 half-day seminars will be offered, including "Advanced Designs for Net Zero Buildings," "Solar PV & Thermal System Analysis and Design" and "Thermal Energy Storage Systems for Air Conditioning."

Ecozen Solutions Pvt. Ltd. of Pune has won the second edition of the FedEx India Small Business Grant Contest 2018. The grant is worth about $21,000. Ecozen makes portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms. The system's thermal storage unit can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather.

• The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has developed self-learning artificial neural networks for the control of solar thermal heating systems. Fraunhofer said the savings potential, compared to an optimized conventional regulation for existing buildings, is at least 7 percent.

• Registration is open for Advancements in Thermal Management 2019, to be held Aug. 7-9 in Denver. Topics will include thermal modeling, emerging technologies, market opportunities, and thermal sensing and measurement. 

• Mounting trade tensions between China and the United States have plunged global shipping markets into a continuing state of uncertainty. Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at international shipping association Bimco, said in an interview with World Grain that the trade war could “derail the current global” upswing in shipping, the highest since 2011. The American Chemistry Council, meanwhile, released a study showing that moving forward with the latest round of tariffs would spark retaliation from China that would put nearly 55,000 jobs and around $18 billion in U.S. domestic activity at risk.

Research roundup: Impact of doping on bonding energy hierarchy; battery thermal management; more

Ben Welter - Friday, September 07, 2018

From Journal of Applied Physics:

Impact of doping on bonding energy hierarchy and melting of phase change materials

From International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer:

Two zone model for mushy region of solid–liquid phase change based on Lattice Boltzmann method

From Applied Sciences:

Synthesis and Investigation of Thermal Properties of Highly Pure Carboxylic Fatty Esters to Be Used as PCM

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Fabrication of novel slurry containing graphene oxide-modified microencapsulated phase change material for direct absorption solar collector

From Buildings:

Potential of Thermal Energy Storage Using Coconut Oil for Air Temperature Control

From International Journal for Research in Engineering Application and Management:

Development of Phase Change Material/ Cooling Plate Coupled Battery Thermal Management System Using CFD

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

A novel graphite-PCM composite sphere with enhanced thermo-physical properties

From Journal of Cleaner Production:

Building-integrated solar thermal system with/without phase change material: Life cycle assessment based on ReCiPe, USEtox and Ecological footprint

From Thermal Science and Engineering Progress:

Role of metallic foam in heat storage in the presence of nanofluid and microencapsulated phase change material

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Heat and flow analysis of a water droplet on hydrophobic and hydrophilic phase change material

PCM briefing: Ice Energy seeks distributors in Australia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia; Thermetrics' new manikin can measure PCM effects

Ben Welter - Friday, August 31, 2018

• In an interview with Energy Storage Report, CEO Mike Hopkins discussed Ice Energy's plans to distribute its ice-based thermal energy storage technology in Australia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In June, the California company announced a $40 million cash infusion from Argo Infrastructure Partners to finance the delivery of Ice Energy's residential and commercial thermal storage contracts.

Thermetrics manikin ANDIThermetrics says its new ANDI sweating thermal manikin has the "unrivaled ability" to measure both positive and negative heat flux and to respond to changing environmental conditions with "unprecedented" speed and accuracy. The new manikin was unveiled this week at the 12th International Meeting of Manikins and Modeling, hosted by the Swiss research institute Empa, in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The manikin can be used to evaluate the thermal performance of apparel, blankets and seats, as well as quantify the cool-to-touch or warm-to-touch temperature-buffering effect in fabrics containing phase change materials. 

• New from LP Information: "2018-2023 Global Eutectic Phase Change Material Consumption Market Report"

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

• The journal Nature reports that India is cracking down on predatory journals, publications that "actively solicit manuscripts and charge authors hefty fees without providing the services they advertise, such as editing and peer review." 

• Life science laboratories are finding creative ways to reduce the amount of plastic they throw away, The Scientist reports. 

Sonoco ThermoSafe will hold its next Leading Minds Seminar Nov. 6-7 at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel Heathrow, London, England. Co-hosted by ELPRO, the seminar is a chance for pharmaceutical manufacturers, supply chain partners and government representatives to discuss temperature-assurance packaging and data monitoring in a collaborative environment.

Viking Cold Solutions says the thermal energy storage system the company installed at a 93,000-square-foot frozen food distribution center in Richmond, Calif., has reduced peak period energy consumption by up to 43 percent and reduced overall freezer energy consumption by 35 percent. Viking installed the system at the Dreisbach Enterprises warehouse earlier this year. Plastic panels filled with a proprietary salt hydrate are installed evenly throughout the warehouse atop the existing product racks. The PCM absorbs heat as it melts, allowing chillers to run less frequently and still keep the warehouse within a few degrees of the target temperature. The system also includes intelligent controls and sensors to optimize energy use and alert managers to temperature abnormalities, equipment failure and power outages.