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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: Axiom Exergy's fast pitch; Peli BioThermal's new bulk freight shipper

Ben Welter - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

• Six energy storage startups made speed pitches at last month's Energy Storage Summit in San Francisco. Greentech Media takes a look at three of the pitches, including one made by Axiom Exergy co-founder Amrit Robbins. Axiom's PCM-powered "refrigeration battery" is designed to cut energy costs at supermarkets. "They are scrambling to reduce costs by just a few basis points -- and energy is a huge opportunity," Robbins said. "Saving $30,000 on a utility bill is the same as selling an additional $1.5 million of groceries."   

Peli BioThermal has introduced its new CoolPall Vertos Advance, a single-use, passive bulk freight shipper that incorporates phase change materials and vacuum insulation panels. 

• Scientists in the United Kingdom are developing a way to turn pinene, a paper industry waste product, into plastic. "We're not talking about recycling old Christmas trees into plastics, but rather using a waste product from industry that would otherwise be thrown away, and turning it into something useful," Helena Quilter, a Ph.D. student at the University of Bath's Center for Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

• Researchers at MIT have created three-dimensional samples of graphene that are up to 10 times stronger than steel, with just 5 percent of the density.

Sonoco ThermoSafe will offer its daylong master class on temperature assurance packaging on Feb. 2 at the Temperature Controlled Logistics conference in London. Sonoco, Peli BioThermal, CrodaTherm, Pluss Advanced Technologies, Ecocool and Cryopack will be among the exhibitors at the conference.

•  Symbol Mattress will launch its new climate-controlled SleepFresh line at the Las Vegas Market later this month. The mattresses use various combinations of gel foams, gel memory foams, phase-change gel latex and ventilated foams, along with the addition of graphite-infused foams. A climate control system in the foundation has the capacity to heat, ventilate and cool.

Lexo tumbler uses material developed by University of Missouri professor

Ben Welter - Monday, January 09, 2017

Lexo PCM tumblerThe heat transfer experts at ThermAvant Technologies, founded in 2007 by two University of Missouri engineering professors, have developed a wide range of oscillating heat pipes, liquid cold plates and other thermal management solutions. Now the Columbia, Mo., company has introduced a stainless steel tumbler that uses biobased phase change material to keep hot beverages at the optimal temperature.

The Lexo tumbler features three layers of 18/8 stainless steel and a BPA-free plastic lid. The 10-ounce version is selling for $37.95; a 16-ounce version will sell for $39.95. By comparison, Joeveo's 16-ounce Temperfect mug, available for preorder on Indiegogo, sells for $40. Ember Technologies' new Wi-Fi enabled temperature-adjustable mug, which employs PCM and a battery-powered heating system, sells for $149.95. 

All three mugs use PCM to absorb the initial heat of coffee or tea and bring it to the optimal drinking temperature.

“Our mug takes about two minutes to cool to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimal drinking temperature, and it stays there for up to eight hours,” said Dr. Bill Ma, the C.W. LaPierre Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the University of Missouri's College of Engineering.

http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2017/0105-new-coffee-mug-holds-liquids-at-optimal-temps-for-8-hours-leads-to-patent-for-mu-engineer/

PCM briefing: First Ice Cub installed in California; hot asphalt demand response system wins UK award

Ben Welter - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins reports that the first Ice Cub has been installed at a home in Santa Ynez, Calif. The unit makes ice during off-peak hours and stores it in an insulated tank. During peak hours, the stored ice delivers three to four hours of cooling, reducing the typical peak load by 95 percent. "This powerful system," writes Hopkins, "replaces the traditional outdoor AC condensing unit and the conventional gas/propane furnace, provides 14 kW of the lowest cost most reliable energy storage available for a home, and if you have solar PV, can make ice using 100% solar power."

Open Energi's effort to tap the "thermal inertia" of hot asphalt has been honored by the UK Association for Decentralised Energy. The London-based startup installed a demand response system at 70 Tarmac plants in the United Kingdom this year, using 200-some asphalt tanks as fast-acting batteries for the electric grid. The tanks stay close to the optimum 150° Celsius for long periods without electricity. 

• In an interview with EPMPelican BioThermal's Kevin Lawler talks about simplification, reusable packaging, tighter temperature restrictions and other trends in the temperature-controlled packaging industry.

BOCA International Ltd. has signed a project development agreement with Nano and Advanced Materials Institute Ltd. in Hong Kong. The parties plan to work together to develop a new microencapsulated phase change material for thermal energy storage in chiller plants.

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

PCM briefing: va-Q-tec raises stake in polymer nanofoam company; Axiom installs system in Walmart store

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 15, 2016

• PCM maker va-Q-tec AG is increasing its equity stake in SUMTEQ GmbH, a technology company that develops lightweight, durable polymer nanofoams for use as insulating material. 

• In tests conducted by San Diego Gas and Electric and ASWB Engineering, Viking Cold Solutions' PCM-based thermal energy storage system showed reductions in electricity consumption of 30 percent and 39 percent in two cold storage facilities in the San Diego area. Based on the results, SDG&E and ASWB recommended that California utilities include the technology in their Energy Efficiency and Demand Response incentive programs.

• The International Fabrics Association International has issued a call for presenters for its next trade show and expo. Possible topics include flame retardancy, moisture management, polymer innovations and thermal control. Submissions are due Feb. 9. The expo will be held Sept. 26-29, 2017, in New Orleans.

Greentech Media's Jason Deign takes a look at what energy insiders around the world are making of Donald Trump's victory.

Axiom Exergy is installing its "Refrigeration Battery" energy storage system at a San Diego Walmart store. Two of California's largest utilities are funding the demonstration project. The system stores water chilled at night, when electricity is cheapest, to take the load off condensers and compressors during the day.

• New from QYResearch: "Global Phase Change Materials Market Research Report 2016."

SpecialChem is offering a 90-minute webinar on the impact of a new U.S. law on intellectual property. "U.S. Trade Secrets and How they are Protected: Easy to Understand Guide" will be held at 10 a.m. EST on Dec. 14. The cost is $268 for three participants on a single connection.

Ice Energy's newest ice-based AC system is aimed solely at residential market

Ben Welter - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Earlier this year, Ice Energy launched the Ice Bear 20, a smaller version of the commercial-scale Ice Bear 30 thermal energy storage system. Next year, the Glendale, Calif., company plans to introduce the Ice Cub, a still-smaller system aimed solely at the residential market.

Rendering of Ice Cub thermal storage system.The Ice Bear 30, designed for large industrial and commercial buildings, connects to existing air-conditioning units, chilling the air that pumps through the AC compressor. The Ice Bear 20, designed for large residential and light industrial buildings, completely replaces AC units, as will the new Ice Cub, shown at right. 

All three units are designed to cut energy costs by producing ice during off-peak hours and storing it in an insulated tank. During peak hours, the stored ice delivers three to four hours of cooling, reducing the typical peak load by 95 percent. The Ice Cub can switch from conventional AC to using the ice to cool a house for at least three hours. During that time no electricity is needed to chill the air.

Here's how the two residential-scale products compare: 

Product Ice Cub (Ice Bear 10) Ice Bear 20
Storage capacity 10 T-hours 20 T-hours
Ice cooling runtime 3+ hours @ 2.5-3T 4 hours @ 5T
Charge time @ 75°F 4 hours using a 3T compressor 7.5 hours
Peak power reduction 95% 95%
Daily kW-h offset 28 kW-h (up to 2 melts
per day)
28 kW-h
SEER >14 14 (estimated)
Modes of Operation Ice Cooling & DX Cooling plus Heating Ice Cooling & DX cooling (heating in development)
Applications Residential Light Commercial & Residential
Configuration Heat pump plus separate TES All-in-one
Dimensions
(L x W x H)
High Efficiency Engine:
40” x 22” x 58”

Mid Efficiency Engine:
26” x 26” x 44”

Tank: 69.5” x 26” x 44”
79” x 47.5” x 47.5”

Initial sales efforts will be focused on California, but the unit will be available "anywhere people want it," said Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins. He said the base price is likely to be close to that of a high-efficiency air conditioner, about $5,000 installed. But with money from California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, the price will be closer to that of a conventional AC, perhaps less, depending on production scale. A typical household paying time-of-use rates, Hopkins tells Greentech Media, would save $500 a year on its electric bill. 

The company is now taking orders for the Ice Cub, which will be manufactured in New York at a plant that can make 1,000 Ice Cubs a month, Hopkins said. He said Ice Energy will be able to keep costs down thanks to Danfoss, a Danish heating and cooling parts maker that has agreed to supply manufacture-ready components.

Danfoss has "been very helpful," Hopkins said, "and we like the quality of their parts. Their hope is that they will be our primary parts supplier when this product takes off. However, there is no exclusivity."

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/ice-energy-will-launch-residential-thermal-storage-in-first-quarter-2017

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.

PCM briefing: Viking touts hybrid cooling system in Australia; thermodynamic law takes a hit in Japan

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 01, 2016

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston introduced its hybrid cooling system at an industry conference in Australia this week. The system, which combines rooftop photovoltaic panels and PCM-based thermal energy storage, is designed to reduce energy costs at supermarkets and cold storage facilities. 

Phase Change Energy Solutions, BASF Education Lab and CALMAC are among the exhibitors scheduled to attend the Greenbuild conference and expo Oct. 5-7 in Los Angeles.

Chart showing 4 phases of substance coexisting at thermal equilibrium• In research that appears to conflict with thermodynamic law, scientists at the University of Tokyo have run simulations showing that four phases of a substance can coexist at thermal equilibrium, where all parts are at the same temperature and pressure. The research "may prove useful in the development of functional phase change materials," according to a university news release, "as it demonstrates that multiple phase transformation can be induced through weak disturbance (perturbation) near the quadruple point."

Emerson is expanding its cold chain presence with the acquisition of two temperature-monitoring companies: Locus Traxx of Jupiter, Fla., and PakSense of Boise, Idaho. Terms were not disclosed.

Ravi Teja, an R&D associate specializing in phase change materials at Pluss Advanced Technologies in India, is a finalist for the Energy Institute's Young Energy Professional of the Year award.

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 necklace is designed to beat the heat in style

Ben Welter - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nano-Ice necklaceSam White, co-founder of Promethean Power Systems, which makes a PCM-powered milk chiller, has found another use for phase change material. He and his wife, Jessica Harder, have developed a cooling necklace designed to keep wearers comfortable and looking good. The couple raised $15,000 in a Kickstarter campaign last year. The Nano-Ice necklaces sell for about $40 online and through retail shops in the Boston area.