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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.

Two Entropy advisors, Dr. Mohammed Farid and Lucas B. Hyman, are pleased to take your questions about PCMs and thermal energy storage. Send your questions to bwelter@puretemp.com. We'll select the best and post the answers here each week.

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Patent application: Product transport container

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170253409 (applicant Phase Change Energy Solutions Inc., Asheboro, N.C.):

PCES patent drawing"Product transport containers are disclosed. Such containers can provide one or more advantages compared to existing containers. For example, product transport containers described herein can maintain a product at a desired temperature for an extended period of time, including without the use of an active heating or cooling component. Such product transport containers described herein may also provide improved breathability, thermal insulation, and/or mechanical strength or dimensional stability. Such containers can include a plurality of walls defining an interior volume and a selectively openable side permitting movement of the product into and out of the interior volume of the container. The walls can be formed from a thermoformed non-woven fabric."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170253409.pdf

Smart pet feeder keeps Fido's kibble cool with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 07, 2017

It's not much to look at, but an ingenious assembly of off-the-shelf electronic components could be just what a busy (and geeky) pet owner needs. The Mario Feeder allows users to schedule and monitor pet feedings from a smart phone and plays a personalized message alerting Fido when it's time to chow down. If Fido fails to heed the call, an alert will be sent to the owner's phone. Other features of the rotating dispenser include:

Mario FeederProximity detection: The bowl will open only when your RFID-tagged pet is nearby, to stop other animals from stealing food.

Bark detection: The feeder is "constantly listening" and will send an alert if your pet sounds distressed.

Smart scale: Tracks what your pet eats, when it eats and how much it eats.

Phase change material: Keeps perishable food cold. 

Developers have launched an Indiegogo campaign in hopes of raising $46,500 to help bring the product to market. They've also produced a video that might be the cutest ad you'll see on the Internet today:

Mario pet feeder video grab

Lead engineer Justin O'Neill answered a few PCM-focused questions by e-mail:

Q: What type of PCM is used? 

A: "We believe that the ability to keep food cold throughout the day is an important feature in a premium pet feeder, and strangely absent in competing products. We are using an organic PCM with a melting point of around 6 degrees Celsius. ... [It is] a bio-based PCM. This isn't because we believe there is a risk of food contamination (very small risk since we are using a robust casing) but more of a product life-cycle consideration with disposal."

Q: How is the PCM encapsulated? 

A: "The PCM is encapsulated in the walls and base of the main bowl, and it is recharged by placing the whole bowl into the freezer/ fridge. We did play with the idea of having separate removable compartments, but this did not fit with our ethos of reducing the total number of components. The bowl is sized so that it will fit in to most domestic freezers/ fridges (also less fiddly for the user). ... Our final design has two compartments with thicker base to hold more PCM. Prototypes have been developed with an ABS housing, but the final version could be PP or HDPE. ... We would have loved to use aluminium or stainless casing but the bowl is a fairly complex moulding and I suspect we would have ended up with high pressure die casting and a step change in cost."

Q: What are the dimensions of the product? 

A: "The bowl is ~310mm in diameter, depending on where exactly you are measuring. We tried to balance catering to larger pets with ensuring it isn't too big for apartments, and of course getting the food bowl with PCM it into a fridge/ freezer."

Q: How long does the product provide a cooling effect?

A: "Our intent is only to provide the ability to delay food spoiling, not keep it frozen or cold indefinitely. Our target has been delaying spoiling for 3-4 hours vs food being exposed, and obviously the performance varies greatly with ambient temperature, the foodstuff and volume of food. The Mario feeder allows users to set an expiration time. I.e after a specified time a particular compartment will be forbidden to expose even if the dog is near (RFID proximity detection) as food may be spoiled. By keeping food out of the sun (using proximity detection and rotating the bowl) we further improve total performance."

Ember secures $13 million to accelerate R&D, marketing initiatives

Ben Welter - Monday, August 28, 2017

Ember Technologies, maker of the Ember temperature-controlled coffee mug, has secured $13 million in Series C funding.

The close of this round brings Ember’s total funding to $21 million. Investors to date include Scott Cutler, CEO of StubHub, singer-songwriter Demi Lovato and National Football League star Ndamukong Suh. 

The $150 Ember mug uses phase change material and a microprocessor-controlled heating system to maintain hot beverages at temperatures set by the user. Ember plans to introduce "several new temperature-control products" in the next six to nine months. The additional capital will be used to accelerate R&D and marketing initiatives.

http://www.finsmes.com/2017/08/ember-technologies-raises-13m-in-series-c-funding.html

Patent application: Meat tenderizing using substrate with PCM

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 03, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170215439 (applicant Empire Technology Development, Wilmington, Del.):

"A meat tenderizing device is provided for meat tenderizing. The device can include a substrate having at least one structural reinforcing member. The substrate may be elastomeric, and may have a body of a material that is non-conductive. The structural reinforcing member can be longitudinally aligned to inhibit longitudinal shortening or longitudinal contraction of the device. The device can provide radial or lateral compression to maintain a longitudinal length or longitudinal stretching of meat contained therein. The substrate can include a conductive material distributed therein that is thermally or electrically conductive. The structural reinforcing member can be positioned so as to control stretching of the substrate. The device can also include a phase change member on a surface of at least a portion of the substrate. The phase change member can include a phase change hydrogel that is liquid at lower temperatures and a gel at higher temperatures."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170215439.pdf

Patent application: Thermal energy battery with enhanced heat exchange capability

Ben Welter - Friday, July 28, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170205152 (applicant Promethean Power Systems Inc., Somerville, Mass.):

Thermal storage battery patent drawing"This invention provides a thermal energy battery having an insulated tank contains a multitude of densely packed plastic tubes filled with a phase-change material (PCM, such as ice) that changes from solid to liquid and vice-versa. Energy is stored when the PCM transitions from liquid to solid form, and released when the PCM transitions back from solid to liquid form. The tubes are arranged vertically, span the height of a well-insulated tank, and are immersed in heat transfer fluid (HTF) contained within the tank. The HTF is an aqueous solution with a freezing point temperature below the freezing point temperature of the chosen PCM. The HTF remains in liquid form at all times during the operation of the battery. Diffusers located allow the HTF to be extracted uniformly from the tank, pumped and cooled by a liquid chiller situated outside the tank and then and inserted back into the tank."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170205152.pdf

PCM briefing: 'New paradigm' in pharma cold chain; opening for sales manager at Sonoco ThermoSafe

Ben Welter - Monday, July 24, 2017

GoSun solar stove• The makers of the GoSun portable stove, which uses solar energy to bake, roast or steam food at temperatures up to 290° C, have raised nearly $400,000 from investors on seedinvest.com. The stove initially used high-temperature phase change material to store the sun's energy. "We abandoned the PCM a couple years ago after we started doing testing with it," said GoSun's Matt Gillespie. He said the material did not match the performance promised by the PCM maker, degrading "significantly" after just a few cycles. The current design uses compound parabolic reflectors and a horizontal vacuum tube to convert nearly 80 percent of sunlight into usable heat. The Cincinnati company has sold 10,000 stoves online and in retail outlets such as Home Depot, REI and Cabela's. GoSun plans to use the SeedInvest funds to support continued growth. 

• A “new paradigm” is evolving in the pharma cold chain to address the rapid advance in cellular and genetic therapies that require extremely low temperatures, Pharmaceutical Commerce reports.  

Bio-based chemical processes that include a thermochemical conversion step are finding favor as early forms of industrial bio-based processing mature, Chemical Processing reports.

• New from Accuray Research: "Global Thermal Energy Storage (TES) Market Analysis & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025

• New from QYResearch: "Global High Temperature Phase Change Materials Market Research Report 2017"

• New from Future Market Insights: "Smart Fabrics Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2016-2026"

• The University of Warwick has posted an opening for a Ph.D. studentship in thermal energy storage. The 3.5-year research position is open to candidates from the United Kingdom and European Union.  

Sonoco ThermoSafe has posted an opening for a regional sales manager

Creative Ticking of Gastonia, N.C., has announced two new PCM-based cooling technologies. Kyla treatments can be applied to fabrics at different levels depending on the desired cooling level, the company said. Kyla+ is a specially designed yarn that "is durable enough to withstand repeated washing without losing any cooling effects.” Creative Ticking is the bedding specialty division of Beverly Knits.

Patent application: Load-bearing structure

Ben Welter - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170197752 (applicant Airdex Corp., Henderson, Nev.):

"The present invention provides a movable load bearing structure with a surface that includes antimicrobial agents capable of eliminating, preventing, retarding or minimizing the growth of microbes and also minimizing cross-contamination when the load bearing structure is being reused for cargos that differ from a previously transported cargo, for example, different food types, such as poultry, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit. The load bearing structure may be a dunnage platform or a container for storing and/or shipping cargo. ... In an embodiment of the invention, the pockets may be used to locate phase change materials."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170197752.pdf

North Carolina company ramps up production of Temperfect mugs

Ben Welter - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The temperature-controlled coffee mug market heated up a bit this month with word from Joeveo that it has completed the shipment of 5,000 Temperfect mugs to Kickstarter backers. The Wake Forest, N.C., startup is now contacting customers who placed subsequent orders to let them know that their mugs will soon be shipped.

Temperfect PCM mugThe 16-ounce mug uses phase change material to cool coffee or tea to a drinkable temperature and keep it there. How is the Temperfect mug ($40-$45) different from two notable competitors, the Ember ($150) and Lexo ($38-$48)?

"The Ember mug is a more complex hybrid PCM/electronic design, 12-ounce rather than 16-ounce like the Temperfect mug, and has a significantly higher price," said Joeveo's Dean Verhoeven, who launched the Kickstarter campaign in November 2013. "The electronics and battery of course allow adjustment of the hold temperature, which a straight PCM mug like the Temperfect won't do.

"The Lexo flask is easier to compare to the Temperfect, as it is strictly PCM-based, and a 16-ounce model is available. The Temperfect mug uses a higher-temperature PCM (61°C vs. 56°C), it's smaller, lighter and has more of a travel mug design rather than the traditional cylindrical thermos shape of the Lexo. It's more colorful!

"Lexo offers what I call a 'backpackable' lid, whereas the current Temperfect lid is optimized for ease of use in a car cupholder, and not for a hermetic backpack-safe seal."

Once Joeveo has caught up on current orders, are there plans to sell on Amazon or in coffee shops or brick-and-mortar stores?

"Yes, we'd like to try both," Verhoeven said. "Brick-and-mortar at some shops we like around here to see what it's like and to get some experience."

Patent application: Technologies for releasing thermal energy

Ben Welter - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

U.S. patent application 20170188754 (inventor Melissa Zimberg, Maplewood, N.J.):

"A heat unit containing a phase change material consisting of polyethylene glycol and a fatty acid combination of stearic and palmitic acids is disclosed. When heated in a microwave for about four (4) minutes the heat unit reaches a temperature of about 70° C. (158° F.). When placed in an insulated container, the heat unit will, after six (6) hours, have a temperature of about 40° C.-55° C. (104° F.-131° F.). The heat unit is advantageous for maintaining food hot during transport as well as other uses where long term heat emission is needed."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170188754.pdf

PCM-based system cuts energy use by 27% in frozen-foods warehouse

Ben Welter - Monday, April 24, 2017

Viking Cold Solutions systemFrozen Gourmet Inc., a wholesale distributor of premium ice cream and other frozen foods, says a PCM-based thermal battery system has cut energy consumption by more than 27 percent in the company’s freezer warehouse in Redding, Calif.

The Viking Cold Solutions system, installed at the end of 2016, features hundreds of plastic bottles filled with a salt hydrate solution. The bottles are suspended from the ceiling of the 7,900-square-foot warehouse. The phase change material solidifies when the warehouse chillers are running. The PCM absorbs heat as it melts, allowing the chillers to run less frequently and still keep the warehouse within a few degrees of the target temperature, 14.8º Celsius. 

Shifting demand to off-peak hours can result in significant savings on electricity in California, where daytime demand charges are common. The Viking system also includes intelligent controls and sensors to optimize energy use and alert managers to temperature abnormalities, equipment failure and power outages.

"We searched for a year to find the right technology to reduce our energy costs and decided to purchase the Viking Cold TES system after seeing the capability and flexibility the system provides," said Bill Kohn, CEO of Frozen Gourmet. "The reduction in energy consumption has improved our bottom line and the real-time monitoring has been invaluable in helping us recognize and address equipment issues before expensive problems arise."

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/frozen-gourmet-installs-viking-cold-130000052.html