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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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Cubesat propulsion concept wins $225,000 National Science Foundation grant

Ben Welter - Friday, February 14, 2020

A Cubesat propulsion system that uses phase change material to store solar thermal energy for use when needed has been awarded a $225,000 National Science Foundation SBIR grant. The ThermaSat concept, developed by Howe Industries of Tempe, Ariz., is designed to provide propulsion for a typical 15kg cubcubesat for 10 years.

Cubesats are tiny satellites — weighing as little as 200 grams — that orbit close to Earth’s atmosphere. They are cheaper to develop and launch than larger satellites. Cubesats have a wide range of purposes, including the collection of mapping and weather data. More than 1,100 have been successfully deployed.

Troy Howe, owner of Howe Industries, answered questions about the ThermaSat propulsion system.

Q: How long has your company been working on the concept?

A: "We have been working on this topic for only about a year in preparation for our NSF proposal, but have experience with optical systems and phase change materials going back about five years."

Q: Can you briefly describe how the system works?

A: "The ThermaSat works by heating liquid water propellant to high temperature steam using incident sunlight. Normally, it is difficult to reach high enough temperatures to use water as propellant, but our optical filtration system is designed to reject long wavelengths of light and only transmit short wavelengths- similar to the greenhouse effect. The phase change materials in the thermal capacitor store the solar energy over a period of hours and then heat the propellant during a 'burn' phase.

ThermaSat cutaway drawing"The PCM will be distributed throughout a graphite matrix in the form of small beads. Flow channels will run axially down the length of the cylinder for the propellant to pass through. The design is based loosely on the old NERVA fuel elements from the nuclear rocket program in the 1970s, with the UC kernels being replaced with our PCM. The drawing here shows a cutaway of the thermal capacitor surrounded by the optical system.

"The system is very conceptual at this point and has not been tested, although the propulsion characteristics are well understood. Our task at this point is to show that the optical system works as predicted and can reach the desired temperatures. Phase II will address the effects of a vacuum environment on a prototype."

Q: What type of PCM is used?

A: "We chose a salt (80LiOH+20LiF) as our PCM, it melts at 700K and has a latent heat of fusion of 1163 J/g. The material was selected based on a study performed by NASA in 1986 on space energy storage. The paper was called 'Technology for Brayton-Cycle Space Powerplants Using Solar and Nuclear Energy' by Robert English.""

Q: How much PCM would be used in a system powering a typical Cubesat?

A: "The standard design includes 0.62 kg of PCM. "

Q: Are you working with any Cubesat manufacturers at this point?

A: "We received letters of interest from Pumpkin Space Systems, Aster Labs, and Arizona State University. They all expressed interest in having a safe and reliable Cubesat propulsion system but we have not formally formed collaboration with any manufacturers at this point.”

Q: How will you use the NSF SBIR grant?

A: "Our goals for this topic include demonstrating the optical system in a lab bench test, fabricating photonic crystals, and performing computational analysis on the thermal, structural, and propulsion systems."

Q: What's the next major step in commercializing the system?

A: "Our commercialization strategy right now is to build a functioning prototype and demonstrate operation on earth. From that point we will aim to do a flight test which performs a set of orbital maneuvers and successfully de-orbits itself. From there we will work with Cubesat manufacturers to move forward."

Q: What excites you most about this project?

A: "We are excited about how near term and effective this technology will be for the upcoming Cubesat revolution. We hope to provide a safe, reliable, and effective propulsion solution that can be used with thousands of different satellites and drastically increase the performance of new technologies in space in the timeframe of just a few years.”

PCM briefing: Ice Energy files for bankruptcy; Viking Cold has opening for thermal engineer

Ben Welter - Monday, February 10, 2020

Ice Energy, the Santa Barbara, Calif., company that made and distributed ice-based thermal energy storage systems, has filed for bankruptcy. The company's Ice Bear system makes ice at night when demand for electricity is low and capacity is abundant. During the day, the stored ice is used to provide cooling. Details of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filed in December, are sparse. The company's website is no longer active. Over the years, Ice Energy had won several major energy storage and distribution contracts with utilities, and had begun marketing a smaller version of the Ice Bear system aimed at retail customers. 

Viking Cold Solutions has an opening for a chemical/thermal engineer in Houston. The engineer will "conduct research in Thermal Science, Storage/Heat Transfer and Phase Change Materials (PCM) for low temperature applications (<10⁰C)."

Axiom Exergy has secured more than $1 million in orders for the Axiom Cloud, a software platform that helps manage energy consumption in supermarkets and cold storage facilities that use the company's PCM-powered thermal storage systems.

• The 2020 Advancements in Thermal Management conference, to be held Aug. 6-7 in Denver, has issued a call for presentations. Topics include thermal materials, thermal modeling and characterization and measurement of thermal materials. Abstracts are due Feb. 12.

EnergyNest will install a large thermal energy storage battery at a Senftenbacher brick factory in Austria. The system will temporarily store excess energy in the form of hot air from a tunnel furnace. The stored heat be converted to steam and later reused in production.

Devan Chemicals, the Belgium-based developer of finishing technologies for textiles, introduced its Tones of Cool Bio technology at the Heimtextil trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, last month. The technology "stimulates the textile to dissipate redundant heat from the body and to instantly reduce the body temperature," the company says. The phase change materials "are derived from sustainable, natural sources.

Registration is open for the 23rd Microencapsulation Industrial Convention to be held June 8-11 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Research roundup: Carbonized waste tires; cetyl palmitate/nickel foam; hydrated salt corrosion assessment; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, January 14, 2020

From Waste Management:

Evaluation of carbonized waste tire for development of novel shape stabilized composite phase change material for thermal energy storage

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Development of polyurethane foam incorporating phase change material for thermal energy storage
Facile synthesis and thermal performance of cetyl palmitate/nickel foam composite phase change materials for thermal energy storage
Optimal sizing design and operation of electrical and thermal energy storage systems in smart buildings

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Numerical investigation of the effects of the nano-enhanced phase change materials on the thermal and electrical performance of hybrid PV/thermal systems
Thermal storage and thermal management properties of a novel ventilated mortar block integrated with phase change material for floor heating: an experimental study

From Applied Energy:

Wood-based composite phase change materials with self-cleaning superhydrophobic surface for thermal energy storage

From Renewable Energy:

Corrosion assessment of promising hydrated salts as sorption materials for thermal energy storage systems
Experimental study on latent thermal energy storage system with gradient porosity copper foam for mid-temperature solar energy application
Selection of a phase change material and its thickness for application in walls of buildings for solar-assisted steam curing of precast concrete
Experimental assessment of Phase Change Material (PCM) embedded bricks for passive conditioning in buildings

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Analysis of energy retrofit system using latent heat storage materials applied to residential buildings considering climate impacts
Experimental and numerical simulation of phase change process for paraffin/expanded graphite/ethylene-vinyl acetate ternary composite
An experimental investigation on the evaporation of polystyrene encapsulated phase change composite material based nanofluids

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Lightweight mesoporous carbon fibers with interconnected graphitic walls for supports of form-stable phase change materials with enhanced thermal conductivity

From Energies:

The Effects of Fin Parameters on the Solidification of PCMs in a Fin-Enhanced Thermal Energy Storage System

From Journal of Materials Science:

Graphene aerogel-based phase changing composites for thermal energy storage systems

From Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology:

A study on development of the thermal storage type plate heat exchanger including PCM layer

From Journal of Power Sources:

Delayed liquid cooling strategy with phase change material to achieve high temperature uniformity of Li-ion battery under high-rate discharge

From Scientific Reports:

Modification of asphalt mixtures for cold regions using microencapsulated phase change materials

From ASES National Solar Conference:

A Study on the Thermal Energy Storage System Using Multiple PCMs [pdf]

From Molecules:

Assessment of Thermal Performance of Textile Materials Modified with PCM Microcapsules Using Combination of DSC and Infrared Thermography Methods

From Energy and Buildings:

Experimental study on thermal performance of a mobilized thermal energy storage system: A case study of hydrated salt latent heat storage

From Chemical Engineering Journal:

Shape-stabilized hydrated salt/paraffin composite phase change materials for advanced thermal energy storage and management

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

A conjugate heat transfer model for unconstrained melting of macroencapsulated phase change materials subjected to external convection

ACT is awarded a U.S. patent for PCM with tunable melt point

Ben Welter - Friday, January 10, 2020

Advanced Cooling Technologies of Lancaster, Pa., has been awarded a U.S. patent for a phase change material with a tunable melting point.

The hydration level of the PCM, a salt hydrate consisting primarily of salt and water, is altered to change the melting point to a desired set point using changes in humidity of the system.

“In an ARPA-E ARID funded program, we showed that you could change the melting point of salt hydrate phase change materials by changing the hydration levels of the salt hydrate in-situ,” Richard Bonner, ACT’s vice president for R&D, wrote in a LinkedIn post. “We also applied this technology to power plant cooling, where the seasonal variations in ambient temperature necessitate different melting points. Congratulations to the inventors: Dr. Ying Zheng, Dr. Chien-hua Chen, Dr. Howard Pearlman, and Dr. Fangyu Cao."

ACT worked with Lehigh University and the University of Missouri to develop the PCM. The idea was prompted by ACT’s interest in utilizing seasonal shifts in weather for the company’s day/night thermal storage application. A tunable melt point allows the PCM to be more easily solidified in cold and hot seasons.

The targeted melt temperatures in the project were from 25° C to 45° C for low-grade thermal energy storage, but could be extended to higher temperatures with other salt hydrates, the company said.

The project was funded, in part, with a $3.2 million ARPA-E ARID grant, awarded in 2015. ARID stands for "Advanced Research in dry Cooling." The project teams were challenged to "develop innovative, high-performance air-cooled heat exchangers and supplemental cooling systems and/or cool-storage systems" for use in thermoelectric power plants, to replace existing technologies that use a substantial amount of water to cool plant condensers.

The ARID project was completed in 2018. ACT's invention is now at the lab-scale testing phase. The most difficult hurdle, the company said, will be to scale up to commercialization level.  “From a manufacturing standpoint, shifting of the hydration level would require a large infrastructure for altering the humidity,” the company said.

“The concept could also be applied to the HVAC industry (building comfort) to provide day/night load shifting,” the company said, “as well as PCM synthesis and preparation for a consistent product. “
 

Sunamp's UniQ heat storage product earns RAL certification

Ben Welter - Monday, December 16, 2019

The RAL Quality Association PCM has awarded the RAL Quality Mark to Sunamp Ltd. for its UniQ line of thermal batteries.

RAL quality markThe product, which has been installed in thousands of homes across Europe, uses a specially formulated phase change material to store large amounts of energy from renewable and other sources and release it as heat to deliver hot water and space heating as needed. The PCM is sodium acetate trihydrate-based with a patented formulation giving a melt point of 58 degrees Celsius. 

In independent testing conducted by ZAE Bayern, the PCM was successfully melted and solidified in a UniQ heat battery for 10,000 cycles. At the end of the test, no significant differences in stored thermal energy capacity were found between the cycled samples and an uncycled sample of the PCM. The product, which also passed leak testing, earned the association's highest level of certification, Grade A. 

Over 3,000 UniQ units are now in service, with Sunamp projecting a tenfold growth in sales next year. The quality mark will be featured on Sunamp’s website and in other marketing materials, UniQ manuals and product labels.

“We are delighted that our thermally charged UniQ product range of heat batteries has been awarded a globally recognized mark of quality,” said Kate Fisher, Ph.D., a materials integration scientist at Sunamp, which is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. “RAL certification is a huge accolade and cements Sunamp’s position as world leaders at the forefront of the technology.”

Sunamp UniQ heat batteriesThe RAL Quality Association PCM was established in 2004 to develop standards for the PCM industry. Members include Axiotherm, Microtek Laboratories, Rubitherm, Croda Europe, va-Q-tec, PCM Technology, Global-Systems Europe, Sasol, Sunamp, Pluss Advanced Technologies and PureTemp LLC.

Members and non-members alike can submit their products to the association for independent testing and earn the RAL Quality Mark. To qualify for the mark, products and materials must meet standards for energy storage capacity and phase transition temperature and stability, as defined in RAL-GZ 896.

“I am delighted that more and more products with PCM technology can be awarded the RAL Quality Mark as meaningful and transparent proof of quality and longevity,” said Stefan Thomann, the association’s managing director. “The great thing about Sunamp´s UniQ heat batteries is that they can be installed and used in homes very easily and save a lot of energy costs and carbon emissions immediately. The fact that they passed more than 10,000 cycles make sure that users will be able to profit from these benefits for decades.”

Research roundup: Passive cooling in buildings; honeycomb carbon fibers; leak-free aggregates; more

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

From Applied Energy:

Passive cooling through phase change materials in buildings. A critical study of implementation alternatives

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Honeycomb carbon fibers strengthened composite phase change materials for superior thermal energy storage

From e-Polymers:

Fabrication and characterization of conductive microcapsule containing phase change material

From Construction and Building Materials:

Preparation and characterization of nano-SiO2/paraffin/PE wax composite shell microcapsules containing TDI for self-healing of cementitious materials
Development of leak-free phase change material aggregates
Behavior of cementitious mortars with direct incorporation of non-encapsulated phase change material after severe temperature exposure

From Advanced Functional Materials:

Engineering the Thermal Conductivity of Functional Phase‐Change Materials for Heat Energy Conversion, Storage, and Utilization

From Journal of Energy Storage:

A numerical investigation of the effects of metal foam characteristics and heating/cooling conditions on the phase change kinetic of phase change materials embedded in metal foam
Applications of combined/hybrid use of heat pipe and phase change materials in energy storage and cooling systems: A recent review
Innovative composite sorbent for thermal energy storage based on a SrBr2·6H2O filled silicone composite foam

From ACS Applied Nano Materials:

Concentrated Ag Nanoparticles in Dodecane as Phase Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage

From Materials Research Express:

Preparation of 1-dodecanol microcapsules with cellulose nanofibers-modified melamine-formaldehyde resin as a potential phase change material

From IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science:

Optimisation of Parameters in Thermal Energy Storage System by Enhancing Heat Transfer in Phase Change Material

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

Thermal transport properties at interface of fatty acid esters enhanced with carbon-based nanoadditives

From Journal of Solar Energy Engineering:

Using a Novel Phase Change Material-Based Cooling Tower for a Photovoltaic Module Cooling

From Solar Energy:

Experimental investigation on micro-scale phase change material based on sodium acetate trihydrate for thermal storage

From RSC Advances:

A novel forced separation method for the preparation of paraffin with excellent phase changes

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Experimental characterisation of a novel thermal energy storage based on open-cell copper foams immersed in organic phase change material

PCM briefing: Acumen invests in Promethean Power Systems; Viking Cold wins Cleanie award

Ben Welter - Monday, October 14, 2019

• Social venture capital investor Acumen has invested an undisclosed amount in Promethean Power Systems Inc., which makes PCM-based refrigeration systems for cold-storage and milk chilling applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. Jiten Ghelani, chief executive of Promethean, which is based in Boston, Mass., and Pune, India, said the investment would help the company accelerate the adoption of its products across India and other markets, and also expand its cooling-as-a-service offerings. 

Air New Zealand pillow• Two new consumer products featuring temperature-control fabrics from Outlast Technologies hit the market recently: A pillow designed to improve the quality of sleep for passengers on Air New Zealand's long-haul flights and a Calloway pullover designed to keep golfers cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather

Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, Texas, won a Platinum Cleanie Award last month for a PCM-based storage and demand management project in Massachusetts. The Cleanie Awards, presented at this year's North America Smart Energy Week in Salt Lake City, Utah, recognize companies and individuals shaping the clean-tech and renewable energy industries. The Viking Cold project involved the installation and commissioning of TES systems to store refrigeration energy and facilitate 1.3 MW of energy demand reduction across eight customer facilities, including the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Sonoco ThermoSafe of Arlington Heights, Ill., has introduced a new temperature-controlled box rental service. "The new Orion r product line is based on the existing ChillTech product," said Ben VanderPlas, manager of engineering and product management at Sonoco. "We’ve made changes to make the product more reusable (added EPP) and have increased the VIP insulation. The PCMs remain the same, using paraffin-based materials. ChillTech was developed by Laminar Medica in the UK prior to their acquisition and integration into the ThermoSafe business. Solutions will exist for 2-8, 15-25 and frozen temperatures."

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted an opening for a Senior Account Manager Europe, to be based in Netherlands.

Microtek Laboratories Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, has introduced a new line of PCM-equipped pouches and panels for use in temperature-controlled shipping.

Research roundup: Corrosion effect of Micronal PCMs; photovoltaic-thermal system optimization; diatomite-based composite; more

Ben Welter - Monday, September 09, 2019

From Renewable Energy and Sustainable Buildings:

Study of Corrosion Effect of Micronal® Phase Change Materials (PCM) with Different Metal Samples
Use of Phase Change Materials for Solar Systems Applications
Performance Optimization of Concentrated Photovoltaic-Thermal (CPV-T) System Employing Phase Change Material (PCM) in Hot Climate

From Asia International Symposium on Mechatronics:

Investigation for a Phase Change Immersion Cooling System

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Experimental study of active phase change cooling technique based on porous media for photovoltaic thermal management and efficiency enhancement

From Renewable Energy:

Enhanced properties of diatomite-based composite phase change materials for thermal energy storage
Hybrid thermal energy storage with phase change materials for solar domestic hot water applications: Direct versus indirect heat exchange systems

From Journal of Applied Polymer Science:

Surface modification of MWCNT and its influence on properties of paraffin/MWCNT nanocomposites as phase change material

From Energy and Buildings:

Energy and emissions analysis of ice thermal energy storage in the western US
Thermal energy storage characterization of cementitious composites made with Recycled Brick Aggregates containing PCM

From Solar Energy:

Innovative passive heat-storage walls improve thermal performance and energy efficiency in Chinese solar greenhouses for non-arable lands

From Construction and Building Materials:

Development of structural thermal energy storage concrete using paraffin intruded lightweight aggregate with nano-refined modified encapsulation paste layer

From Applied Energy:

A comprehensive review on positive cold energy storage technologies and applications in air conditioning with phase change materials

From International Journal of Energy Research:

Preparation and characterization of nano‐enhanced myristic acid using metal oxide nanoparticles for thermal energy storage
Performance comparison of different combined heat and compressed air energy storage systems integrated with organic Rankine cycle

From xPRESS Polymer Letters:

Editorial corner – a personal view / Thermal management with polymer composites

From International Symposium on Asphalt Pavement & Environment:

Impregnation of Lightweight Aggregate Particles with Phase Change Material for Its Use in Asphalt Mixtures

From Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology:

Development of new inorganic shape stabilized phase change materials with LiNO3 and LiCl salts by sol-gel method

From Advanced Functional Materials:

Functional Soft Composites As Thermal Protecting Substrates for Wearable Electronics

Research roundup: Microencapsulated coconut oil; mixed alkanes microcapsules; low-hydration heat cement slurry; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

From Cellulose:

Microencapsulated organic coconut oil as a natural phase change material for thermo-regulating cellulosic fabrics

From Journal of Physics: Conference Series:

Numerical and experimental investigation of melting process in spherical PCM capsule used for low-temperature thermal energy storage systems

From Energy:

Synthesis and characterization of mixed alkanes microcapsules with phase change temperature below ice point for cryogenic thermal energy storage
Preparation of Low Hydration Heat Cement Slurry with Micro-encapsulated Thermal Control Material

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

A Three-Dimensional Numerical Investigation of a Novel Shallow Bore Ground Heat Exchanger Integrated with Phase Change Material

From Polymer Science:

Preparation of Phase Change Microcapsules with Inorganic/Polymer Hybrid Shell Through a “Two-Step” Reaction

From Solar Energy:

Improved thermal energy storage for nearly zero energy buildings with PCM integration

From Thermal Science and Engineering Progress:

A theoretical and experimental study of a TBAB salt hydrate based cold thermal energy storage in an air conditioning system

From Journal of Energy Storage:

A Review of Phase Change Materials for the Thermal Management and Isothermalisation of Lithium-Ion Cells

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Experimental performance evaluation of a novel designed phase change material integrated manifold heat pipe evacuated tube solar collector system

From Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews:

Corrosion mechanisms in molten salt thermal energy storage for concentrating solar power

Research roundup: Microencapsulated sugarcane wax; night ventilation; caprylic acid composite; more

Ben Welter - Friday, August 23, 2019

From Chemical Engineering:

Thermal properties and behavior of microencapsulated sugarcane wax phase change material

From Renewable Energy:

Experimental study on the influence of preparation parameters on strengthening stability of phase change materials (PCMs)
Climatic and seasonal suitability of phase change materials coupled with night ventilation for office buildings in Western China

From Applied Energy:

Thermal energy storage (TES) with phase change materials (PCM) in solar power plants (CSP). Concept and plant performance

From Materials Research Express:

Preparation and thermal characteristics of caprylic acid based composite as phase change material for thermal energy storage

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Thermodynamic assessment of an integrated renewable energy multigeneration system including ammonia as hydrogen carrier and phase change material energy storage

From Russian Journal of General Chemistry:

Symmetrical Fatty Dialkyl Carbonates as Potential Green Phase Change Materials: Synthesis and Characterisation

From Journal of Physics: Conference Series:

An Integrated Energy Power Generation with Energy Storage System

From Safety in Extreme Environments:

Review of energy storage technologies in harsh environment

From Materials Today: Proceedings:

Review on performance assessment of phase change materials in buildings for thermal management through passive approach

From International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology:

Sunlight-driven organic phase change material-embedded nanofiller for latent heat solar energy storage

From International Journal of Energy Research:

Application of a ground source heat pump system with PCM‐embedded radiant wall heating for buildings

From Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research:

Theoretical Evaluation of an Organic Phase Change Material (PCM)-Inserted Dual-Functional Adsorbent for the Recovery of Heat of Adsorption

From Chemical Engineering Journal:

Flame-retardancy and thermal properties of a novel phosphorus-modified PCM for thermal energy storage

From Solar Energy:

Numerical study on charging characteristics of heat pipe-assisted cylindrical capsule for enhancing latent thermal energy storage

From Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability:

Use of phase change materials in concrete: current challenges

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Ambient pressure dried flexible silica aerogel for construction of monolithic shape-stabilized phase change materials

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Preparation and properties of phase change temperature-tuned composite phase change material based on sodium acetate trihydrate–urea/fumed silica for radiant floor heating system

From Sustainable Cities and Societies:

Cardinal orientation and melting temperature effects for PCM-enhanced light-walls in different climates

From Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry:

Phase change materials (PCMs) for improving solar still productivity: a review