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.
Drexel University offers a detailed look at the novel dry-cooling technology being studied to reduce water use at thermoelectric plants. The research team, which includes Drexel, the University of Memphis, Evapco, WorleyParsons and the Electric Power Research Institute, is focusing on phase change material in the form of tiny wax beads:
"The group’s design uses large mesh disks, 20 meters in diameter, woven from quarter-inch-thick tubes filled with tiny bead-like capsules of paraffin just a few millimeters in diameter. The discs would be stacked 15 meters-high in a cylinder the team calls a 'rotary heat exchanger unit.' With the look of a sophisticated water wheel, the unit will have openings on the top and bottom for hot water to flow in, cooled water to drain out and ambient air to keep the system moving.
"As the hot water enters the unit from the steam condenser, the beads in the mesh will absorb the heat. The discs will continue to rotate as the water enters the unit. When the heated portion of the disc reaches the cooling side of the unit, ambient air is pumped in to let the beads release the heat before returning to the atmosphere outside the plant. The cooled beads spin back to the other side as the disc rotates, ready to repeat the process."
"Upon launch, the app pulls up a satellite view world map. Navigating to specific points on the globe can be accomplished manually via pinch and zoom or by typing the name of a location in the search box. Users can also launch their mobile device’s GPS to zero in on their current position.
"Once a geographical location has been selected, users can access a series of maps that produce visual overlays of existing renewable energy resources. Information returned includes such data as annual solar exposure and crop sustainability indexes based on average yearly rainfall. Personalized search and sharing capabilities are also included with the app, allowing a user to forward information via email and social media."
Global Atlas Pocket is a free download for iOS, Android, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone devices. It's a great fit for tablets such as the iPad Air 2, but difficult to use on devices with smaller screens. And it consistently crashed on my Nexus 5 smartphone.
Alliance, which manages NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy, is seeking candidates who have "a demonstrated record of inspiring and guiding a research organization toward a compelling vision for impact, proven skill in leading innovation in science and engineering, a track record for delivering high-quality research results that are relevant and impactful, and experience in guiding operational excellence that enables mission accomplishment while meeting contractual requirements."
In an interview with CSP Today, Dr. Nicolas Calvet, who leads the Masdar Institute's thermal energy storage research group, talked about the design of Masdar's 100 kW solar platform. The experimental "beam-down" solar concentrator in Abu Dhabi is being retooled to demonstrate the feasibility of a more cost-effective and flexible TES solution.
The new design, which brings light into a ground-level tank, has a number of advantages.
"You don’t pump the molten salts up the tower," he noted. "You don't need pump, pipes, you don't need electrical tracing to avoid the freezing in the pipes. You reduce a lot parasitic energy consumption by not moving molten salt in pipes. And you have direct absorption between the concentrated light and the salt in the tank.
"Instead of two tanks there’s only one tank. There is a moving divider plate inside it separating the upper part which should be hot and the lower part which should be cold. When you charge your system, this plate is moving down and you have only hot salts. And when you discharge, the plate is moving up and you have only cold salts."
A consortium led by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) is working to develop industrial heat storage applications using phase change materials. The two-year LOCOSTO project is focusing on the application of new PCMs with a substantial heat storage density at temperatures between 100°C and 250°C.
Participants include end users Dow Chemical and Emmtec Services, engineering consultant DWA, system supplier Bronswerk Heat Transfer and materials suppliers Nedmag, Salca and Croda.
New on LinkedIn: A group devoted to the discussion of phase change material and thermal energy storage, a place for PCM and TES experts and industry leaders from around the world to gather and share ideas. It's called Phase Change Matters, and it's intended as a highly interactive complement to the blog and newsletter of the same name.
The first topic up for discussion: PCM and off-peak cooling systems:
TES pioneers like CALMAC and Ice Energy have been installing ice-based energy storage systems for years. And district cooling has been around for decades. What are the main barriers to wider adoption of phase change material in these types of thermal energy storage systems? Complexity? Education? Cost?
You are invited to join the discussion. Here's a link to the group:
Dow Chemical is collaborating with NEST AS of Norway on a thermal energy storage pilot project in Abu Dhabi. The project, to be undertaken at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology's concentrated solar power installation in Masdar City, will study the feasibility of a novel TES system developed by NEST. Dow will supply technical support and 2.6 metric tons of its Dowtherm A heat transfer fluid.
BASF has just launched an Android app to help architects, engineers and investors assess the impact of phase change materials on a building's cooling load. The free app, which also includes tips for PCM users and links to industry research, calculates potential energy savings based on building materials that incorporate BASF's Micronal phase change material. According to the app description in Google's Play Store:
"Just enter the cooling load of a building conventionally calculated according to VDI 2078. After entering some additional data on the building situation and the desired PCM building material, you are provided with a figure which is a reduction factor for this cooling load, optimized for the application in question. This reduction factor is calculated on the basis of forecast dynamic simulations in standard rooms and applies the user's data to a suitable reference building, extrapolating it to the actual construction project in question.
"The app also takes economic efficiency into account and shows the user the break-even point when the costs required for buying and installing the PCM construction material have been covered by savings in facility investments and energy."
CleanTechnica's Zachary Shahan reports that the International Renewable Energy Agency is ready to unveil REsource, a research tool he describes as "akin to a Google of renewable energy."
IRENA says the goal is to provide "relevant, reliable and timely information on renewable energy market statistics, potentials, policies, finance, technology costs and benefits, innovations and education." Screenshots of the tool show a Google-like main screen that will allow visitors to tap IRENA's "vast knowledge base" for information by source, energy type and country.
The tool is expected to be launched at IRENA's 5th Assembly in Abu Dhabi next week.