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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 monthly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.

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Ember temperature-control mug finally hits the market

Ben Welter - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ember Technologies, which raised more than $360,000 on IndieGoGo last year, has finally released its flagship product, the temperature-controlled Ember mug.

The $149 mug is being delivered to nearly 2,000 IndieGoGo backers and is available for purchase at dozens of Starbucks outlets in the United States. The mug quickly sold out at starbucks.com (it's back in stock today) and is on backorder on embertech.com, with delivery promised in January.

"The release of the Ember mug is seven years in the making. I started Ember to solve a simple yet universal challenge faced by coffee and tea drinkers everywhere — how can I keep my hot beverage at the ideal temperature for as long as I want," Ember Technologies founder and CEO Clay Alexander said in a news release.

Cutaway of Ember mugThe Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user.

Hot beverages are usually served around 160° Fahrenheit — far too hot to drink. Which means coffee drinkers must typically wait for their java to cool to drinkable temperature, commonly 135°. That's where Ember's phase change cooling technology makes a big difference. The PCM in Ember's lining absorbs the excess heat to rapidly cool the drink and then works in concert with a battery-powered heating element to keep the drink hot.

The Ember mug can maintain a temperature for about two hours on the go or indefinitely when on its slim charging coaster. A twist of the base adjusts the temperature. A mobile app allows users to set and select temperature profiles for coffee, tea or other beverages.

A few early reviews:

• "Beautiful packaging and works flawlessly. I also put in cold water and had it heat to 133. Very cool. Should have ordered an extra coaster." — Christopher Hall, IndieGoGo backer

• "Wish I had another charger and vehicle charger. Two hours is not very long, especially for a second cup of coffee once in town or for the drive back home after shopping day is done. Another wish is that the cup made notification sounds or at least flash 'ready,' Different colors in the display would be great too. Lovin' the temp stays hot!" — Heather Baker, IndieGoGo backer

• "Ember keeps my coffee and tea at the perfect temperature for hours on end. I don't scald my mouth anymore or have to put my drink in the microwave when it's too cold. It's perfect for traveling, everyday use, and going on cold walks when all you want is a warm drink. I highly recommend and a few of my friends already have one for the holidays." — Tayto, Los Angeles, Calif., on starbucks.com

• "Want it hotter or colder? Adjust the temp on the mug or in the app. Works amazing and holds temp for hours. Can't wait to see what else comes out of Ember!" — Eric, Carlsbad, Calif., on starbucks.com

Patent application: Thermal receptacle with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thermal receptacle patent drawingU.S. patent application 20160332799 (applicants Raymond Booska, Melbourne, Fla., and J. Bruce Kolowich, Saline, Mich.):

"A liquid receptacle for rapidly lowering the temperature of a liquid contained therein to a warm range suitable for human contact and maintaining the liquid in the warm range for an extended period of time, the receptacle having a drinking lip at the uppermost end, the receptacle comprising: an inner vessel having an open upper end and closed lower end and a wall connecting the upper end and the lower end; the inner vessel having an inner surface with plurality of indentations or protrusions defined thereon and an outer surface with a plurality of corresponding protrusions or indentations defined thereon such that the effective surface area of the inner and outer surfaces is increased and heat transfer through the wall of the inner vessel is increased; an insulated outer shell spaced from the inner vessel defining an interstitial chamber therebetween, the insulated outer shell having an open upper end and a closed lower end; and a phase change material disposed within said chamber for regeneratively absorbing thermal energy from the liquid and then releasing the thermal energy to the liquid to maintain the temperature of the liquid."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160332799.pdf

Patent application: On-demand beverage cooler with PCM

Ben Welter - Wednesday, November 02, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160313047 (inventors Avner Sodot and Shaul Hanuna, Israel):

Beverage cooler patent drawing"A beverage cooler includes a heat pump having a cooling element thermally coupled to a negative-heat-energy accumulator. The accumulator (14) includes a heat-energy dispersion arrangement formed from thermally conductive material which is in thermal contact with a quantity of phase-change material having a phase-change temperature above zero Celsius. A conduit for the beverage defines a circuitous path thermally coupled to accumulator. The heat pump draws heat energy predominantly from the phase-change material so as to ensure that a temperature of the phase-change material is reduced by at least as much as the temperature of the beverage within conduit, even under zero-flow conditions. This ensures that the accumulator can he fully charged during periods of low beverage dispensing demand without risk of freezing the beverage within conduit."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160313047.pdf

Patent application: Container having a mixture of PCM and graphite powder

Ben Welter - Thursday, October 27, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160309932 (applicant Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research):

Fraunhofer patent drawing"A container may be provided, in particular a beverage container, comprising an inner container wall and an outer container wall, an intermediate space lying between the container walls, wherein the intermediate space is filled with a mixture that contains phase-change material and graphite powder, wherein the graphite powder is introduced into the phase-change material in such a way that the mixture has a pulpy consistency at a temperature at which the phase-change material is liquid. A method may be provided for producing a container that includes the following steps: A) providing an inner container wall and an outer container wall; B) applying a mixture of graphite powder and phase-change material to the inside of the outer container wall and/or the outside of the inner container wall; C) joining the outer container wall and the inner container wall."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160309932.pdf

PCM briefing: Ember sets ship date for $149 mug; va-q-tec plans IPO on Frankfurt exchange

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 08, 2016

Ember Technologies, which raised more than $350,000 on IndieGoGo last fall to develop a temperature-adjustable mug, sent backers a long-awaited update this week: "We are excited to inform you that we plan to start shipping Ember mugs in the second half of October." Delivery was initially set for April 2016. The $149 mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user.

Va-q-tec AG is preparing for an initial public offering on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The company, based in Würzburg, Germany, hopes to raise 45 million euros ($50.6 million USD) to expand its "serviced rental" business and production capacity. Va-q-tec develops, manufactures and sells vacuum insulation panels and phase change materials.

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins and CALMAC's director of energy services, Evan Berger, will be among the speakers at the Energy Storage North America conference in San Diego, Calif., Oct. 4-6.

Patent application: Heated or cooled portable drinkware

Ben Welter - Friday, August 26, 2016

Ember Technologies patent drawingU.S. patent application 20160242598 (applicant Ember Technologies Inc., Westlake Village, Calif.):

"An actively heated or cooled portable container is provided. The container has a portable body with a receiving portion defined by an inner wall that receives a liquid. A heating and cooling system housed in the portable body has a cooling element in thermal communication with at least a portion of the inner wall to remove heat from the liquid. The heating and cooling system also has a heating element in thermal communication with at least a portion of the inner wall, control circuitry to control the operation of the heating element and one or more power storage elements to provide electrical energy to the heating element and/or control circuitry. ... The heating and cooling system comprises a cooling element comprising a phase change material disposed in a chamber that surrounds at least a portion of the inner sidewall so that the phase change material is in thermal communication with at least a portion of the inner sidewall of the portable body, the phase change material configured to transition from one phase to a second phase at a predetermined temperature."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160242598.pdf

Patent application: Food/beverage container with thermal control

Ben Welter - Thursday, July 28, 2016

Patent drawing of beverage container with thermal controlU.S. patent application 20160215194 (applicant Trent University, Canada):

"A container for a food and/or beverages is provided. The container is designed such that it may have the capability of absorbing excess thermal energy from the food or beverage, thereby cooling the consumable material to a desired temperature and maintaining the material at the desired temperature for a considerable period of time. The container typically includes an outer insulating shell; an inner heat conducting liner and a phase change material (PCM). To facilitate heat transfer to and from a food or beverage stored in the container, the PCM is commonly disposed between the outer insulating shell and the inner heat conducting liner and positioned in thermal contact with the inner heat conducting liner. The PCM may include a diol diester having a melting point of about 30 to 90° C."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160215194.pdf

PCM coaster is designed to keep canned beer cold

Ben Welter - Monday, July 25, 2016

Two Hungarians are working to raise $25,000 on Indiegogo to fund development of BoozePad, an aluminum-and-plastic coaster designed to keep canned beer and other beverages cold. Inside is a phase change material of their own creation, a salt-and-water paste with a freeze point of minus 14 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Boozepad photoIn an email interview, Viktor Kurucz and Zsombor Kaló said similar products on the market only slow warming: "BoozePad is the only device [we've tested] that effectively cools the beer and keeps the preferred low temperature." 

They added: "BoozePad is absolutely local: idea, testings, design and development to the prototype has all been happened within the boundaries of Budapest. Mass production will take place also locally. It is important for us to supervise the production personally, and diminish the biological footprint."

A single BoozePad costs $10, with delivery promised in October. With a month to go, the Indiegogo campaign has raised a little over $2,000, well short of the team's $25,000 goal.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/boozepad-keep-your-beer-cool-while-you-drink-it--3#/

PCM briefing: Ember mug not quite there yet; Encapsys launches redesigned website

Ben Welter - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ember Technologies, maker of the Ember temperature-controlled coffee mug, reports that it has been working "around the clock" to improve the mug's firmware, mobile app and a few key hardware components. In an e-mail to backers, the Westlake Village, Calif., company says the next production run is scheduled for July. No word on when initial orders will be shipped. Deliveries were originally promised to IndieGoGo backers by April 2016.  

Encapsys LLC of Appleton, Wis., has launched a redesign of its website, www.encapsys.com. The new design features fresh photography, a video gallery, improved navigation and responsive design to ensure optimal display on desktops and mobile devices.

• Chemical companies can save 6 percent to 10 percent annually on raw materials with improved purchasing processes, according a McKinsey & Co. analysis.

• A petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with diagnostics research has a prompted fresh discussion of a familiar question: Do patents promote or hinder innovation?

• Whatever the outcome of free trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, the European Commission has promised that REACH, the EU's chemicals regulatory framework, will remain unchanged.

Patent application: Bottle-cooling display stand with PCMs

Ben Welter - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

U.S. patent application 20160109176 (inventor Cigdem Harms, Las Vegas, Nev.):

Bottle-cooling display stand"The present disclosure relates to a device for holding a bottle, in particular the bottle holder includes a stand, the stand including a base portion, an angled stand portion, and an annular holding portion. The base portion is configured to rest against a supportive surface, and the angled stand portion extends upward away from the base portion. The angled stand portion can include first and second prongs forming a primary void in a front planar face therebetween. An annular holding portion extends rearwardly from the front planar face between the first and second prongs. A cooling insert can be provided which is configured to rest in the annular holding portion and provide cooling to a bottle contained therein. ... The cooling insert can be filled with a freezable gel or other phase change material and placed into the bottle holder assembly so as to provide a cooling effect to a bottle held by the bottle holder assembly and thereby maintain the liquid contained therein at a desired drinking temperature."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20160109176.pdf