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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.




Research roundup: Binary mixtures of n-octadecane, myristic and palmitic acid; TES integration forms; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Solid–liquid phase equilibria of (n-octadecane with myristic, and palmitic acid) binary mixtures used as phase change materials (PCMs) [Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics]

Thermal energy storage system integration forms for a sustainable future [Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews]

Impact of the enthalpy function on the simulation of a building with phase change material wall [Energy and Buildings]

Mathematical modeling of phase change at the nanoscale  [International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer]

PCM briefing: MiraCradle profiled in ASME magazine; Sunamp takes the stage in China

Ben Welter - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pluss Advanced Technologies' MiraCradle neonatal cooling device is featured in the spring issue of DEM+ND, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' quarterly review of global development.

Sunamp Ltd. is one of five companies representing Edinburgh, Scotland, in business presentations in Shenzhen, China, this week. Sunamp is hoping to expand the market for its "heat batteries," which use phase change material to store excess energy generated by solar PV systems. The stored energy is released on demand to provide heat and hot water. 

• Drs. William Sutterlin and Heather Watson of Entropy Solutions attended the American Oil Chemists' Society conference in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Session topics included novel waxes with unique thermal characteristics, emulsion formation, crystallization growth of lipid materials and new analytical techniques.

• The global caprylic acid market is expected to reach $4.9 million by 2022, according to Stratistics Market Research Consulting.

• A rare sighting: Ice-based thermal storage pioneers CALMAC and Ice Energy are featured in the same article. Canada's Plumbing+HVAC magazine takes a look at a CALMAC project at the University of Waterloo and an Ice Energy project in Boothbay, Maine.

• The Chemical Footprint Project, a global initiative designed to measure corporate progress in adopting safer chemicals, will issue its first report this month. Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, examines Wal-Mart's impact on the project.

PCM briefing; China tightens vaccine-handling rules; Pelican BioThermal has new partners in Chile, Brazil

Ben Welter - Monday, May 09, 2016

China has strengthened cold chain regulations in the wake of a scandal involving the illegal sale of expired and improperly handled vaccines. County health officials are now required to get vaccines directly from manufacturers before sending them to hospitals, instead of going through wholesalers. Hospitals, clinics and government authorities must also keep better records of purchases and inventory, with regular monitoring of vaccine temperatures.

Pelican BioThermal, the temperature-controlled packaging specialist, recently announced partnerships with BioThermal Solutions of Chile and NatBio of Brazil.

Ice Energy is a founding member of the recently launched Community Storage Initiative, an industry group that includes utility trade associations, environmental groups, manufacturers and more than a dozen utilities. The Glendale, Calif., company makes the Ice Bear thermal energy storage system. "Community storage" refers to utility-sponsored programs that aggregate distributed energy storage resources such as water heaters, electric vehicles and interconnected storage batteries to deliver electricity to consumers more efficiently.

The global market for green chemistry, estimated at $11 billion in 2015, will explode to about $100 billion by 2020,  the American Sustainable Business Council and the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council report. "In a nutshell," writes Libby Bernick of Trucost, "the green chemistry market is poised for takeoff."

• The U.S. Green Building Council has launched "Ask Brendan," an offbeat yet informative video series featuring Senior Vice President of Knowledge Rachel Gutter and Chief of Engineering Brendan Owens. The pilot episode is free but requires site registration. Subsequent episodes will be available only to Education @USGBC subscribers.

PCMs helped this tiny house achieve Passivhaus status

Ben Welter - Monday, March 28, 2016

Mizu passive house | photo by © David Montigny

Designing a house that meets Passivhaus standards is made more difficult when the house is small. A small house has more surface area per cubic foot of living space than a large one. Thick concrete walls aren't the most efficient way to achieve thermal mass in a house of less than 130 square feet.

Thomas Primault, the designer of Mizu, a Japanese-style timber structure in Bretagne, France, chose another option: 6 mm of Enerciel wall coating impregnated with phase change material. The biobased PCM has a melt point of 23° Celsius, absorbing heat when the temperature inside the tiny office structure climbs above 23, and releasing heat when the temperature falls below 23. The building envelope also includes vacuum insulated panels in the floor and mineral fiber insulation in the ceiling and walls. 

TreeHugger's Lloyd Alter describes the result, a tiny house that meets Passivhaus standards, as "a stunning little gem." Blogger Elrond Burrell writes that monitoring data and experience indicate that the building is performing very well, but "it isn't obvious how much the PCM is playing a part in the performance."

Stanford's new heating/cooling system wins top honors in engineering competition

Ben Welter - Thursday, March 10, 2016

SESI central plant drawing

Stanford University's new $485 million heating and cooling system has won the Editors' Choice Award in the annual Engineering News-Record Best of the Best competition. The Stanford Energy System Innovations project, completed in April 2015, has cut campus energy use by 50 percent. Three heat-recovery chillers in the new central energy facility (CEF) strip waste heat from 155 campus buildings via a chilled-water loop and use it to preheat a separate hot-water loop that distributes heat to the same buildings.

ENR describes the system in detail:

"The system captures 57% of building waste heat, reusing it to meet 93% of campus heating needs. For most of the year, the system precludes the need for cooling towers to discharge excess heat, which reduces water consumption on campus by 15%.

"Each heat-recovery chiller (HRC) provides a 2,500-ton cooling capacity for chilled water and simultaneously can produce 40 million BTUs of heat per hour. The HRCs send out chilled water to the campus at 42°F, which returns at 56°F to 60°F. The heat removed from the chilled water as it is cooled back down to 42°F reheats spent hot water (which returns to the CEF from campus at 130°F) back up to 160°F to 170°F to supply heating. ...

"The CEF’s thermal storage system contains two 5-million-gallon tanks to store cold water and a 2.3-million-gallon tank for hot water. The tanks double as reservoirs for power, allowing flexibility to operate the heat-recovery chillers and other equipment during times of lower energy pricing or when outside air temperatures are optimal. For example, when it’s hot during the day, excess heat can be converted and stored as hot water, instead of being rejected out of evaporative cooling towers, and then used during the cooler nighttime hours."

Marine Corps base in Georgia aims to achieve 'net-zero' status in 2017

Ben Welter - Friday, February 26, 2016

New heating and air conditioning systems that combine ground source heat pumps with borehole thermal energy storage are part of plan to achieve "net zero" status at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., sometime next year. The systems transfer the heat or cold from the ground to air conditioning systems with 6-inch piping going down 200 feet. The Albany Herald reports that the systems are designed to reduce the operational cost of heating or cooling by 30 percent. ...

Thermal energy storage is at the heart of net-zero milking system

Ben Welter - Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dairy farms consume a surprising amount of energy. Electricity is needed to run milking machines, to heat water to clean the equipment and to cool milk to safe temperatures for storage and consumption. 

The West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minn., is developing a dairy system that collects more energy from renewable sources than it uses. The key components: two wind turbines, a solar thermal array, a heat pump, three heat exchangers and a 2,000-gallon water tank. The Morris Sun Tribune describes the system:

WCROC dairy herd"The central component of the new net-zero dairy will be a heat pump designed to collect the heat from the cow's milk and store it in a 2,000 gallon thermal storage tank custom built by Custom Fabrication and Repair of Morris.

"Water will also be heated using solar thermal collectors already built along the east side of the dairy barn, adding another source for preheated water. This reduces the amount of energy needed to warm the water to the necessary temperature.

They've also installed three heat exchangers — devices that transfer heat between a warm substance and a cold substance — that will be used to chill the milk and help move heat into and out of the thermal storage unit. From the storage unit, the water will flow through an electric, tankless water heater system to get up to the final temperature needed for cleaning."

In an interview with Phase Change Matters, renewable energy scientist Eric Buchanan shared more details on the tank: "The tank is partitioned into three sections in such a way to promote temperature stratification. The inlets and outlets on the cold and hot sides of the tank also incorporate radial diffusers designed to slow the flow and minimize vertical mixing. The tank will be insulated with spray foam to about R-80."

PCM briefing: California leads U.S. in net-zero buildings; Ice Energy CEO among speakers at green conference

Ben Welter - Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins and renowned architect Frank Gehry are among the speakers at the VerdeXchange green economy conference Jan. 24-26 in Los Angeles.

California is home to almost half of all the net-zero buildings in the United States, according to a new survey from the Net-Zero Energy Coalition. Sacramento is first among U.S. cities, with more than 925 zero-energy housing units and 800 more planned. 

MIT researchers have developed a new material that can store solar energy during the day and release it later as heat on demand. The transparent polymer film could be applied to window glass, clothing or other surfaces.

• New from Grand View Research: "Fatty Acid Ester Market Analysis By Product (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Glyceryl Monostearate, Isopropyl Esters), By Application (Personal Care & Cosmetics, Lubricants, Food Processing, Surfactants & Detergents, Pharmaceuticals) and Segment Forecasts To 2022"

A housing development in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is said to be the first in the world to run on solar-powered hydrogen energy storage.

PCM briefing: Ice Energy hires CFO; Ember temperature-adjustable mug among gadgets at Consumer Electronics Show

Ben Welter - Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ice Energy, maker of the Ice Bear thermal energy storage system, has hired Charles Costenbader as its new chief financial officer. Costenbader most recently served as chief operating officer of Synthesis Energy Systems, Shanghai, China.

Ember Technologies' temperature-adjustable mug, powered by phase change material, is among the gadgets on display at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Appliance maker Glen Dimplex is about to begin recruiting 1,250 households in Germany, Latvia and Ireland to test its Quantum electric thermal storage system later this year.

The UK Green Building Council has launched a program to ensure that commercial buildings across the country meet the performance standards promised by developers.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is accepting applications for a year-round student internship to help foster clean energy development on tribal lands. 

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is seeking technology-to-market experts to guide ARPA-E awardees in the development and execution of technology commercialization strategies. 

ARPA-E has posted the agenda for the Energy Innovation Summit, Feb. 29-March 2 in suburban Washington, D.C. Advanced Cooling Technologies and the Electric Power Research Institute, which are developing PCM-based dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants, are listed among the 267 showcase participants. 

$100,000 in prize money awaits winners of 2016 FLoW business plan competition

Ben Welter - Thursday, December 31, 2015

Entries are being sought for the 2016 FLoW program, a business plan competition for American university students and recent graduates focused on clean-tech and sustainability. Mentors will be assigned to help contestants develop their ideas and refine their pitches. $100,000 in prize money is available to winners. Submissions are due March 7, 2016.

Axiom Exergy took first place in 2015 with a refrigeration battery technology designed to help the food industry reduce energy costs. The battery charges by freezing tanks of salt water at night, when electricity is cheaper, and then provides refrigeration throughout the day. Axiom, led by a Stanford University team, won $75,000.