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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.




Sonoco ThermoSafe, Cold Chain Technologies share first-place award for innovation

Ben Welter - Friday, October 07, 2016

Sonoco ThermoSafe's Certis platform of universal parcel shippers and a PCM gel refrigerant made by Cold Chain Technologies shared first place as the “Most Innovative New Cold Chain Technology of the Year” at the 2016 Cold Chain Global Excellence Awards in Boston last week.

The Certis platform is designed to optimize warehouse space, reduce inventory costs, simplify training and increase productivity. Only three types of PureTemp phase change material and eight shippers are needed to create 24 shipping solutions across temperature ranges and duration. Another Sonoco product, the LD7 Quarter PMC pallet shipper, was runner-up in the same category.

CCT's Koolit Advanced PCM Gel is marketed as the first commercially available solid phase change material refrigerant engineered to maintain the efficacy of drugs and vaccines during transport.

Water Heater Challenge winner begins work on prototype

Ben Welter - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Energy consultant Benjamin Knopp, who won $5,000 in A.O. Smith's Water Heater Challenge last month, is working on a prototype for a thermally isolating preheater to improve the efficiency of residential water heaters. In collaboration with Smith and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knopp is investigating the use of phase change material to increase a water heater's first hour rating by 15 to 30 percent, without increasing water storage temperature.

Benjamin KnoppThe competition is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's JUMP program, an online crowdsourcing initiative aimed at advancing energy-efficient building technologies. 

"JUMP is a recipe for success," Knopp said, "because it brings the large organizations, small innovators, and national laboratories to the table to identify what the market needs, what technology can solve that need, and how to get it to market quickly.”

Knopp said the completed prototype would under rigorous testing and refinement. "Finally, assuming all goes as planned," he said, "we will work out a licensing agreement so that it can be mass produced."

2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners named

Ben Welter - Thursday, June 23, 2016

Verdezyne of Carlsbad, Calif., which developed a greener way to make high-performance nylon, is among this year's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners. Verdezyne's process uses a plant-based feedstock and does not employ high temperatures or concentrated nitric acid. The nylon is used in hairbrushes, toothbrushes, adhesives, coatings, fragrances and other products. It has qualified for the USDA Certified Biobased label.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency award recognizes innovative technologies "that turn climate risk and other environmental problems into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development." The awards were present last week at the annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Portland, Ore. This year's other winners:

• Professor Paul Chirik of Princeton University discovered a new class of catalysts to produce silicones without the use of platinum.

Newlight Technologies of Costa Mesa, Calif., developed a plastic made from methane-based greenhouse gas. 

• Texas-based CB&I and Albemarle Corp. of Baton Rouge, La., developed and commercialized a safer technology to produce alkylate, a clean gasoline component.

Dow AgroSciences of Indianapolis developed and commercialized Instinct, an additive that reduces the leaching of fertilizer nitrate into ground and surface waters. 

Dr. William R. Sutterlin, Entropy Solutions' chief science officer, was a member of a University of Missouri team that won the academic award in 2006 for developing an inexpensive method to convert waste glycerin, a byproduct of biodiesel fuel production, into propylene glycol.

PCM briefing: Sustainable manufacturing good for bottom line; Ice Bear among technologies highlighted at White House

Ben Welter - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adopting sustainable manufacturing processes can help companies boost their bottom line, improve their reputation and become more competitive, writes Doug Kramer, president and CEO of spray foam product maker Lapolla Industries

• The Global Cold Chain Forum is accepting nominations for the 2016 Cold Chain Excellence Awards. The four categories are Best Temperature Controlled Logistics Project; Most Innovative New Cold Chain Technology of the Year; Most Sustainable Temperature-Controlled Project; and Most Effective Risk Assessment, Evaluation & Mitigation for Transportation. Nominations are due by July 29, 2016.

Nike is teaming up with MIT's Climate CoLab to speed the development of innovative materials and shrink the company's supply-chain footprint.

Ice Energy's new Ice Bear residential cooling system was among the technologies highlighted at a White House summit on renewable energy and storage last week. 

• Puma's new PCM-infused jerseys made the wrong kind of impression at the European Championships this week. Four jerseys worn by Swiss players in a match against France tore apart when tugged on by opponents. Puma later apologized, blaming the problem on a bad batch of material damaged during production. It does not appear that the problem involved the phase change material used in strategically placed tape inside the jersey.

Pluss Advanced Technologies' Celsure cold chain shipper won the innovation of the year award at the Cold Chain Strategy Summit in Mumbai last week.

Rentable produce boxes equipped with PCMs win $12,000 ag innovation prize

Ben Welter - Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Refrigerated produce trucks are common in developed countries. Not so in India, where about 40 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables spoils before reaching consumers. A team of MIT and Harvard University students is developing a system designed to reduce that waste and lower distribution costs. Their idea won the first MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize awarded last week in Cambridge, Mass.

At the heart of the system are rentable boxes packed with phase change material. The insulated, collapsible boxes will be sized to fit on traditional dry trucks, which are far cheaper to own or rent than refrigerated trucks. The boxes are kept cold in refrigerated warehouses until they are filled with produce. Each box is equipped with a device to track location, temperature, humidity and payment information in real time.

Naren Tallapragada“We’re thrilled that we won the inaugural MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize," said Naren Tallapragada, a member of the winning gomango team "It was an honor and a privilege to share the stage with other talented teams with a passion for food, agriculture and sustainability. We’d like to thank the contest team, judges, sponsors and mentors for all of their support — and, of course, for recognizing that phase change materials could help the developing world transport its perishable goods affordably.”

Tallapragada, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in systems biology at Harvard, said the team continues to refine its technology and strategy. Gomango plans to use the $12,000 award to develop commercial prototypes for a pilot project in India. 

A team of MIT students, Safi Organics, won the $8,000 second-place prize for its work on a low-cost organic fertilizer. A team of MIT and Harvard University students, Ricult, won a $5,000 third-place prize for a cellphone-based system that connects small farmers in developing countries to "buyers, farm input sellers, banks, logistics and critical farming information."

Research on air-cooling system for power plants wins $3.5 million ARPA-E grant

Ben Welter - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Each day, U.S. thermoelectric power plants withdraw more than 100 billion gallons of water from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers to cool turbines. Two University of Cincinnati engineering researchers have been awarded nearly $3.5 million to develop an air-cooling system that uses phase change material to eliminate the need to tap local water supplies.

Professors Raj M. Manglik and Milind A. Jog are developing an enhanced air-cooled condenser and a daytime peak-load shifting system that will enable dry cooling for power plants even on hot days. The project is one of 15 awarded grants under ARPA-E's Advanced Research In Dry cooling program. The three-year project is outlined on the ARPA-E site:  

"The team will transform a conventional air-cooled condenser by incorporating flow-modulating surfaces and modifying the tubular geometry of the system, both of which will reduce heat transfer resistance and increase the thermal surface area. Whenever the air temperature becomes too high for the air-cooled heat exchanger to be effective, the [peak load-shifting system] will cool the air inlet temperature back down to acceptable temperatures. This inlet air-cooler technology removes heat from the incoming air and stores it in a thermal energy storage (TES) system that incorporates phase-change materials, which can store and release heat over a range of temperatures. During periods when the ambient air is cooler, the TES will release the stored heat to the atmosphere. Together, the combined innovations could quadruple the condenser's coefficient of performance, while the system's compact design will result in a smaller footprint than other air-cooled designs."

La Jolla research building makes AIA top 10 list for sustainable design

Ben Welter - Monday, April 25, 2016

Storage tank installation at J. Craig Venter Institute

The J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is on the American Institute of Architects' top 10 list of projects that represent sustainable architecture and ecological design for 2016. 

The 44,607-square-foot building, the first net-zero biological lab in the world, was designed by ZGF Architects. It uses two 25,000-gallon thermal energy storage tanks — one for warm water, one for cool — to moderate temperatures. Cooling towers chill the TES at night, allowing the building to be cooled during the day without electric chillers. The underground tanks were made by South Gate Engineering of Chino, Calif.

PCM briefing: ASHRAE offers building restoration guidelines; TNT lands customers for new va-Q-tec shipper

Ben Welter - Monday, April 18, 2016

ASHRAE has proposed guidelines that balance the need for energy conservation and authenticity in the restoration of historic buildings. The guidelines address planning and operation, mechanical systems, building envelopes and lighting.

• Express delivery company TNT has signed up two global customers for its new cold chain packaging and shipping solution, va-Q-tec Ltd.'s Medpak VI°C, which officially launches this month. One is a clinical trial company; the other is a biotech company.

• In partnership with 3D Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Maryland has used the latest 3D printing technology to manufacture a heat exchanger which is said to be 20 percent more efficient than current technology.

• The 2017 Zayed Future Energy Prize competition, which recognizes "significant contributions in the global response to the future of energy," is now open for entries. Winners are eligible to win up to $1.5 million. This year's winners included BYD Company Ltd. of China, the world's largest rechargeable battery supplier; and Kopernik, an Indonesia nonprofit that distributes solar lights, solar home systems, water filters and clean cookstoves in developing countries.  

PCM briefing: New TES tank at California college; Grid Edge Award for Steffes Corp.

Ben Welter - Monday, April 11, 2016

Chaffey College TES tankA 709,500-gallon thermal storage tank, right, is helping Chaffey College of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., cut cooling costs. The centerpiece of the school's newly expanded central plant helps shift chiller operation from on-peak to off-peak hours, when electricity is less costly.

Steffes Corp., a North Dakota company that makes electric thermal storage systems, has earned a Greentech Media Grid Edge Award. The company's partnership with Hawaiian Electric, Sequentric and Battelle on a grid-interactive water heater system earned Steffes a place on the Grid Edge list. Other honorees this year include Duke Energy, BMW Group and Tesla

National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers have demonstrated that carbon nanotubes have the potential to act as a thermoelectric power generator that captures and uses waste heat.

Suman Jha, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at Dr MGR University in Chennai, India, is sold on the importance of phase change material in reducing energy consumption. His study of smart construction materials has found that PCMs can cut air-conditioning loads by 40 to 50 percent.

PCM briefing: Encapsulation conference in Scotland June 10; Pluss R&D manager on list of Innovators Under 35

Ben Welter - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

• The Royal Society of Chemistry's Formulation Science and Technology group will hold its second Innovations in Encapsulation conference on June 10 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Speakers include Paula Felix De Castro and Dmitry G. Shchukin of Liverpool University. They will present their work on encapsulation of docosane into polyurethane microcapsules as phase change material for thermal energy storage.

Nidhi Agrawal, assistant R&D manager at Pluss Advanced Technologies, is among eight people named to the India edition of MIT Technology Review's 2015 list of Innovators Under 35. Agrawal, 32, has led the development of several phase change materials, including form-stable materials.

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at SolarReserve's Crescent Dunes solar power plant, a 110-megawatt facility with enough molten salt storage to power 75,000 homes for up to 10 hours with zero sunshine.

• New from QYResearch Group: "Europe Phase Change Materials Industry 2016 Market Research Report"