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Phase Change Matters newsletter | Dec. 7, 2018


The Phase Change Matters e-mail newsletter is a weekly summary of the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. To subscribe, visit For more frequent updates, follow @puretemp on Twitter or visit the Phase Change Matters blog,


Agenda set for Swiss symposium on thermal energy storage

The agenda is confirmed for the 6th Swiss Symposium Thermal Energy Storage, to be held in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Jan. 25. The symposium will focus on seasonal storage systems and the sector coupling of power and heat. The sessions will be conducted in English. The registration fee is 300 Swiss francs. Here are the speakers and topics:

• "Heat Storage in Switzerland": Elimar Frank, Frank Energy GmbH, Switzerland

• "Thermal Energy Storage, One Key Element to Link Energy Sectors": Peter Schossig, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Germany

• "Enhanced Phase-Change Materials for Heat-Storage applications": Colin Pulham, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

• "High-Temperature Latent Heat Storage and Applications": Dan Bauer, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Stuttgart, Germany

• "High-Temperature Phase Change Materials": Yulong Ding, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

• "Network Convergence and Sector Coupling at St. Galler Stadtwerke": Simon Schoch, St. Galler Stadtwerke, Switzerland

• "Heat4Cool – Multienergy Solutions for Heating & Cooling": Marcello Aprile, Politecnico di Milano, and Philipp Schütz, Lucerne School of Engineering and Architecture, Switzerland

• "Large-Scale Thermal Energy Storage and Multi-Energy Networks in Vienna": Robert Hammerling, Wien Energie GmbH, Austria

• "Current and Future Use of Seasonal Thermal Storage in Ground Heat Exchangers: A Swedish Perspective": José Acuña, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

• "Avoided System Cost for Grid Reinforcement and Peaker Plants by using Ecovat Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage": Aris de Groot, Ecovat Renewable Energy Technologies, Netherlands

• "Optimization of Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage Systems for Buildings": Willy Villasmil, Lucerne School of Engineering and Architecture, Switzerland

• "Seasonal Hot Water Storage with Vacuum Super Insulation": Matthias Demharter, Bayerisches Zentrum für Angewandte Energieforschung ZAE, Germany


Temperature control device patent drawing

Temperature control device with PCM

U.S. patent application 20180347869 (inventors Anthony Boule, Toulouse, France; Pierre Lapalus, Marseille, France):

"The invention relates to a portable device for regulating the temperature of an element, comprising: an engagement part adapted to be placed in contact with the element, a temperature regulation unit comprising a thermoelectric module having two sides (41, 42), a first side (41) of the thermoelectric module being thermally coupled with the engagement part (2). The device further comprises: a reception part (5) adapted to removably receive a phase change material (PCM) (6), a second side (42) of the thermoelectric module being thermally coupled with the reception part (5), such that a phase change material (PCM) (6) provided in the reception part will also be thermally coupled with the second side (42) of the thermoelectric module."

Device and method for cooling a liquid

U.S. patent application 20180347870 (applicant Gerrit Sonnenrein, Paderborn, Germany):

"A device, for cooling a liquid, especially a beverage, comprising a cold accumulator and a thermal line, the cold accumulator and the liquid to be cooled being thermally connected by means of the thermal line, and the cold accumulator comprising a phase change material, the device also comprising means for dissipating heat from at least the thermal line, and the cold accumulator comprising a carrier material into which the phase change material is integrated."

In-flight service cart

U.S. patent application 20180346122 (applicants Tower Cold Chain Solutions Ltd. and DHL Supply Chain Ltd., Great Britain):

"An in-flight service cart for use on an aircraft for maintaining a payload such as foodstuffs and the like within a selected temperature range, said in-flight service cart including: a housing (3) having a storage volume; and at least one thermally insulated container (5) removably mounted within the housing, said container having an outer casing, a thermally conductive inner casing, thermal insulation located between the outer casing and the inner casing, said thermal insulation including at least one vacuum insulation panel, a payload volume for storing foodstuffs, an opening providing access to the payload volume, a closure member for closing the opening, at least one thermal energy storage unit located within the inner casing, said thermal energy storage unit(s) including a phase change material that is arranged to change phase at a temperature greater than or equal to -10° C.; wherein the inner casing and closure member define the payload volume for storing the foodstuffs, and the thermal energy storage unit(s) is positioned in thermal contact with the inner casing, the arrangement being such that the inner casing provides a thermally conductive pathway for conducting heat entering the container to the thermal energy storage unit."

Solid-liquid phase change driven heat engine

U.S. patent application 20180320518 (inventor Yanming Wei, Ontario, Canada):

A new kind of solid-liquid-solid cyclic phase change heat engine is presented with optional but highly recommended multiple cylinders aka multiple stages cascading powertrain. Unlike the traditional Rankine engine or Stirling engine, hereby the gaseous phase is prohibited, and the conventional turbine is abandoned too. Under the drive of heat flux, low expansion volume of the working Phase Change Material (PCM) replaces the high expansion volume of hot gas, and in compensation, high expansion pressure replaces the low expansion pressure of hot gas. ... Inspired by [Donald] Trump's book “the art of deal,” I audaciously make technical trade-off to combine but isolate standard hydraulic oil and PCM in a hydraulic ensemble, despite minor existence of PCM leakage, corrosion and excessive friction, which are caused by the non-ideal viscosity & fluidity."

The inventor has posted a fuller description of the phase change heat engine on LinkedIn. When I contacted him, he acknowledged that the "Wei-Trump" device exists only in theory. He said he is seeking partners/investors to fund a prototype.


Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS team has won first place in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East, a competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Electricity & Water Authority. The lone American team topped 14 other finalists and more than 60 total entrants. The team said its use of phase change material in the solar-powered home set it apart from the competition. Look for an interview with Joseph Wheeler, an architecture professor who directs Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS research program, in the next issue of Phase Change Matters.

• Via LinkedIn: "Pluss Advanced Technologies Pvt. Ltd. is hashtag#Expanding its hashtag#Research team for hashtag#PCM Business. Chemistry Graduates with 0-2 years of experience preferred. However, others will be considered too. Usual job descriptions apply! Want to understand more about the opportunity? Please write to Ruchika Garg at Hurry! The vacancies are limited."

• U.S. and German researchers who have studied a PCM alloy made from germanium, antimony and tellurium say liquid water and liquid PCMs may have the same underlying physics. "The experiments reveal that the so-called Stokes-Einstein relation, which connects the viscosity of a liquid to the diffusion coefficient of its molecules, appears to break down above the melting point of the material and at very low viscosities – just as in water," Physics World reports. "The result will be important when making phase-change memories from GeSbTe alloys and related PCMs in the future."

CleanTechnica's Tina Casey takes a deep dive into the U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop next-generation, long-duration energy storage systems. Her conclusion: "The new R&D program practically guarantees that the hurt will continue for coal miners, their families and their communities long after Trump leaves office."  

kW Engineering of Oakland, Calif., offers tips on how to use a famously complex energy modeling program: "Best Practices for Successful Building Energy Modeling with EnergyPlus." 


For our full list of recent academic research, see Here are highlights from the past week:

From Applied Energy:

Form-stable and thermally induced flexible composite phase change material for thermal energy storage and thermal management applications
Influence of the storage period between charge and discharge in a latent heat thermal energy storage system working under partial load operating conditions
Dynamic building envelope with PCM for cooling purposes – Proof of concept

From Air Force Research Laboratory:

High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage (HEATS) [pdf]

From Solar Energy:

Synthesis and characterization of sensible thermal heat storage mixture containing phosphate compound of cobalt and sodium
Thermal performance of non-ventilated multilayer glazing facades filled with phase change material

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Charging nanoparticle enhanced bio-based PCM in open cell metallic foams: An experimental investigation
Thermal performance analysis and optimization of a spherical PCM capsule with pin-fins for cold storage
A phase change material with enhanced thermal conductivity and secondary heat dissipation capability by introducing a binary thermal conductive skeleton for battery thermal management

From Materials:

Characterization of MgCl2·6H2O-Based Eutectic/Expanded Perlite Composite Phase Change Material with Low Thermal Conductivity

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Size controlled lauric acid/silicon dioxide nanocapsules for thermal energy storage

From Energy Procedia:

Life Cycle Assessment of thermal energy storage materials and components

From MATEC Web of Conferences:

A Numerical Method for Analysing Heat Conduction in Composites Containing Encapsulated Phase Change Materials [pdf]

From Journal of Building Engineering:

Experimental analysis for thermal storage performance of three types of plate encapsulated phase change materials in air heat exchangers for ventilation applications


Connect with PCM experts and industry leaders on LinkedIn

More than 1,390 people have joined a LinkedIn group devoted to the discussion of phase change material and thermal energy storage. The Phase Change Matters group is an interactive complement to the award-winning blog and newsletter of the same name.

You are invited to join the group and connect with PCM and TES experts from around the world. This week we welcome David Willson of Stanbridge Capital, Greater New York City Area; Ajay M. Nair, Ph.D. Scholar at University of Ulster; and Howard Jones, managing director at Materials Industry Consulting Ltd. 

New this week: A discussion titled "Industry market research: Valuable intel or fake news?"

"Executives who purchase market research are looking for industry insights and actionable data. But with the avalanche of reports coming out each month, it's getting harder to tell the wheat from the chaff. What's your take on market research in 2018?"

I recently stopped linking to these reports in the PCM newsletter because I cannot vouch for their value. Samit Jain of Pluss Advanced Technologies responded: 

"Completely agree, Ben. While India is providing the cheap labour (in this case white-collar MBAs), the West provides these consulting outfits trying to make money by selling these reports at huge premiums. Very tough to separate, as you rightly say, the wheat from the chaff."