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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: Registration open for PCM 2018 in Quebec; MIT finds new way to mix oil, water

Ben Welter - Friday, November 10, 2017

• Registration is open for PCM 2018, the 12th IIR Conference on Phase Change Materials and Slurries for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. The conference will be held May 21-23, 2018, in Orford, Québec. Topics will include thermal energy storage; thermophysical and rheological properties of PCMs and slurries; and transport phenomena and time-dependent behavior of PCMs and slurries.

MIT researchers have developed a new way to mix oil and water and create an emulsion that remains stable for long periods — no shaking required.

• Registration is open for "Towards a Sustainable Solution to Melt Snow and Ice on Concrete Pavement: Use of Phase Change Materials, a presentation by Dr. Yaghoob Farnam, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Drexel University. Farnam will discuss his research on the use of PCM-enhanced concrete to inhibit the buildup of snow and ice on pavement. The program will be held Nov. 30 in King of Prussia, Penn.

• "Innovative Thoughts" blogger Harvey Wade visited the 3M Customer Innovation Centre in Bracknell, U.K., last month to find out how the big company sustains its innovative edge. Lesson No. 1: 3M listens to its customers. "They don’t guess what the customer needs," Wade writes, "they invest their time to know their needs, discovering the big problems that they can try to solve." 

BMW PCM Ride jacketBMW's 2018 Motorrad collection includes the latest version of the PCM Ride jacket, featuring microencapsulated phase change material that "adapts permanently and smartly to the current temperature."

Peli BioThermal has opened a service center in Brussels, Belgium, to handle its Credo line of reusable temperature-controlled packaging. 

Ember Technologies' newest temperature-control product, a $79 ceramic mug with an active heating system, contains no phase change material. The company's first product, a PCM-lined travel tumbler, sells for $150.

Grace Hsia, founder and CEO of Warmilu, a Michigan startup that makes an infant warming blanket, talks about the stresses and rewards of building a company from scratch. "I find my body will sometimes crash," Hsia told Crain's Detroit Business, explaining how 90-hour workweeks have led to bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis. "I've been trying to get more sleep, which is tough."

The preliminary program has been released for the fifth Building Enclosure Science & Technology conference, known as BEST5. It will take place April 15-18 in Philadelphia. 

• The American Chemical Society has won its lawsuit against Sci-Hub, a widely used pirate site for scientific papers that was established in 2011 by former neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan.

• New from Intellectual Research Partners: "Global Thermal Energy Storage (TES) systems Market By Technology (Molten salt, Phase change materials, Water based, Electric thermal and Solar) End User Application (Air Conditioning, Cold Storage, Power Storage, Process Cooling) Region (North America, Europe, APAC) Forecast To 2023"

Patent application: Heat retaining dish assembly

Ben Welter - Friday, October 27, 2017

Patent application 20170303710 (applicant Tempra Technology Inc., Bradenton, Fla.):

"A dish assembly for serving food includes a dish housing that defines a surface, upon which the food can be placed, and an inner compartment, a phase-change material within the inner compartment, and an electrically-conductive element inside the inner compartment and thermally coupled to the phase-change material. In a typical implementation, the phase-change material is adapted to melt in response to the electrically-conductive element being heated by an electromagnetic induction heater. The thus heated dish assembly can facilitate getting hot food to a table while it is still hot, and once at the table, keeping that hot food at least warm for quite some time, while it is consumed."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20170303710.pdf

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."