Phase Change Matters RSS

 

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.

RECENT POSTS

TAGS

ARCHIVE

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.

PCM newsletter marks 5th anniversary

Ben Welter - Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Phase Change Matters newsletter is celebrating its fifth anniversary with the publication of issue No. 224. Only a handful of folks received issue No. 1; the first issue of 2020 was e-mailed to 1,303 subscribers. More than 40,000 people from more than 160 countries visited puretemp.com last year. Here are the most-viewed newsletter posts from 2019:

1. PureTemp introduces temperature-control fabric coating (Jan. 23)

2. New dorm at Massachusetts college features 18,000+ square feet of PCM mats (Aug. 15)

3. Croda began work on new microencapsulated PCM four years ago (July 26)

4. PCM-equipped infant warming mat set for large-scale trial in Rwanda (Jan. 7)

5. Novel PCM microspheres keep new therapy pack flexible when frozen (June 15)

6. Croda adds 2 biobased phase change materials to its lineup (May 17)

7. PCM system inefficiencies blamed on design flaws, operator errors (March 25)

8. Sunamp signs agreement with Chinese heat pump maker (March 18)

9. PureTemp shows energy-saving potential in EnergyPlus simulations (Aug. 28)

10. Microtek introduces new PCM built with nextek encapsulation technology (March 11)

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.”

PCM briefing: Advanced Building Skins presentations are online; Ecozen raises $6 million

Ben Welter - Monday, December 16, 2019

• Presentations given at the 14th Conference on Advanced Building Skins in Switzerland in October are available via download for 80 euros. Among the topics: "Thermal performance of engineered wood flooring impregnated with phase-change materials," Damien Mathis, University LAVAL, Fontenay-sous-Bois, France; "Thermal comfort modelling and its impact on building energy performance," Vikram Sami, Olson Kundig, Seattle, Wash.; and "Integrated solar electric/thermal cooling system with storage," Mohannad Bayoumi, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Loughborough University researchers have been awarded funding to help with the design and development of a four-wheeled electric vehicle for research, teaching and outreach in India. Engineers at Vellore Institute of Technology and PSG College of Technology, both located in Tamil Nadu, will work with Loughborough researchers to explore the use of phase change material and other technologies to manage battery heat. The high ambient temperatures in south India and similar climates can significantly reduce battery life in electric vehicles.  

• Energy storage specialist 1414 Degrees has announced plans to acquire SolarReserve Australia II, which owns the Aurora Solar Energy Project in South Australia and two solar sites in New South Wales. The Adelaide, Australia, company plans to use the Aurora site to build a 400 MW solar farm with thermal storage capacity of several thousand megawatt hours. The technology stores electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon.

• Agritech startup Ecozen of Pune, India, which makes portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, has raised a total of $6 million to fuel its growth phase. The cold rooms feature a PCM-equipped thermal storage unit that can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather.  

Advanced Cooling Technologies Inc. of Lancaster, Penn., is seeking qualified research and development engineers at various experience and education levels to work on space, defense and energy-related applications. 

• Andreas Hauer, head of the energy storage department at ZAE Bayern (the Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research) has joined the board of directors at the International Solar Energy Society.

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.

PCM briefing: Viking Cold is finalist for innovation award; Sonoco launches sustainable packaging initiative

Ben Welter - Friday, September 20, 2019

Viking Cold Solutions is a finalist for an Energy Storage of North America Innovation Award. The behind-the-meter thermal energy storage systems up for the award are part of an Eversource demand management program in Massachusetts. 

A thermal storage project in Northamptonshire, England, is expected to provide 47 new homes with hot water and heat via renewable energy sources such as solar power. The borehole technology, developed by Caplin Solar of Leicester, stores heat in the ground in warmer months for later use in colder periods.

• Packaging giant Sonoco of Hartsville, S.C., has announced the creation of its EnviroSense sustainable packaging initiative. EnviroSense products are designed to incorporate a number of elements associated with more sustainable packaging, including optimized package-to-product ratio; increased use of recycled and recyclable content; fiber sourcing; compostability; and the use of bio-based materials.

• Registration is open for Sonoco ThermoSafe's next Leading Minds Seminar, "Collaborative Learning that FUELS Your Temperature Sensitive Healthcare Products," to be held Nov. 14 in Amsterdam. The seminar is designed for European supply chain, logistics, quality and packaging professionals responsible for the protection and management of temperature sensitive healthcare clinical supplies and finished products. 

Hydrostor, a Canadian developer of advanced compressed air energy storage projects, has announced the closing of $37 million (USD) in growth financing. Hydrostor has three projects in operation or under construction in Canada and Australia 

• A projected tripling of heat-related deaths in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years will require a drastic rethinking of ways to cool buildings, a parliamentary select committee warns. “The risk of overheating in terms of minimising risks to health and safety of occupants should be enshrined into regulations for new build homes and retrofits," the Environmental Audit Committee said. "This should be considered alongside an integrated review of energy efficiency and ventilation, and be included in the government’s planned Future Homes Standard, to include improvement in the measurement of current and future overheating risk and prioritise passive cooling measures.”

• The most entertaining obituary of a self-taught chemist you will read this month. Rest in peace, Joe Heller.

PCM briefing: Glacier Tek sponsors wheelchair cyclists in Kenya fundraiser; CCT closer to commercializing silicon battery

Ben Welter - Monday, September 09, 2019

Dom Coleman, Regain trustee and grants officerGlacier Tek LLC of Minneapolis is sponsoring seven quadriplegic cyclists taking part in a fundraising ride in Kenya's Rift Valley next month. The Kenya Cycle Challenge 2019, organized by Regain, a U.K.-registered charity, is on track to raise 80,000 pounds to support quadriplegic athletes in Great Britain. More than 50 riders are expected to participate. The seven sponsored riders will be wearing PureTemp-powered Glacier Tek cooling vests to help them handle the 32º C heat they will likely encounter on the five-day ride. People with spinal cord injuries are vulnerable to heat stress because their bodies cannot send the signals needed to initiate sweating in response to hot conditions. 

• Heat battery manufacturer Sunamp Ltd. is among the exhibitors at the InstallerSCOTLAND trade show in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday.

CCT Energy Storage is on track to install its first commercial thermal energy device at a mobile phone base station in Adelaide, South Australia, before the end of the year following an agreement in principle with an Australian infrastructure provider. CCT unveiled its first 24kW device in March, describing it as the world’s first working thermal battery using silicon as a phase change material.  

• Hundreds of Australia’s most environmentally advanced homes will open their doors to visitors on Sunday, Sustainable House Day 2019. At least two of the homes – Farrell’s House in Narara, New South Wales, and the 10 Star Home in Cape Paterson, Victoria – feature phase change technology. More than 33,000 people visited 226 homes across Australia last year.  

PCM briefing: ThermoSafe introduces new passive shipper; PCM-cooled rail containers hit market in China

Ben Welter - Saturday, August 24, 2019

ThermoSafe Pegasus ULD shipper• Sonoco ThermoSafe has announced the creation of a passive, temperature-controlled container that will be manufactured by AEROTUF of Charleston, S.C. The Pegasus ULD container will use AEROTUF’s patented AeroTHERM composite material technology, along with a gelled phase change material. "The Pegasus ULD will ultimately provide 2-8, CRT, and frozen temperature ranges depending on the PCM used for durations up to and exceeding five days," said Ben VanderPlas, manager of Engineering and Product Management at ThermoSafe, which is based in Arlington Heights, Ill. A launch date for the product has not been announced.

• The Chinese rail company that worked with the UK's University of Birmingham last year to develop a prototype of PCM-based freight container is bringing the concept to market. Hebei-based transport business CRRC Shijiazhuang sold 49 of the containers to a manufacturer in China this month. The low-emissions freight containers keep payloads cold without the need for fuel-generated refrigeration. "We are delighted to see our cold storage technologies start to make the commercial market," said Yulong Ding, director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage. "We are working with our partners to extend the cold storage technologies to more applications."

Lagunitas Phase Change ale• Here's a co-branding opportunity for a PCM manufacturer with a taste for hops: Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, Calif., has introduced Phase Change, "an unfiltered, wet-hop ale packed full of lupulin-drenched Simcoe, Citra & Mosaic hops." The brewer describes the beer as "somewhere between a solid and a liquid... a Phase Change of sorts."  

• More than 170 speakers are lined up for the 14th International Conference on Advanced Building Skins, to be held Oct. 28-29 in Bern, Switzerland. The Japanese architect and Pritzker laureate Shigeru Ban will deliver the keynote address. Thomas Friedrich of Innogration GmbH, Germany, will discuss "collection of thermal energy from the façade" and "decentralized PCM storage elements for saving thermal energy." Damien Mathis of Ai Environnement, Paris, will give a presentation on the "thermal performance of engineered wood flooring impregnated with phase-change materials." The registration fee is 680 euros and includes the conference documentation as well as meals during both days. Participants who register by Aug. 30 will receive a 10 percent discount.

Croda began work on new microencapsulated PCM four years ago

Ben Welter - Friday, July 26, 2019

UK-based Croda International recently announced the launch of a microencapsulated form of biobased phase change material developed at the company's PCM technical center in Netherlands. The new material is designed to be used to control temperatures in bedding, mattresses, automotive interiors, clothing and other applications.

Jerome Gonthier and Martin ButtersThe development was led by Marco Auerbach and Jerome Gonthier, working with colleagues who have expertise in microencapsulation and acrylic polymer. Martin Butters, a specialist in PCM applications and business development, also supported the project.

Gonthier and Butters provided details on the new material in an email interview.

Q: What prompted the decision to develop this technology?

A: "Having established a range of high-quality bio-based PCMs, market demand led us to explore the microencapsulation of these PCMs. Microencapsulation converts the PCM into particles that are offered to the market in two forms, powder and water-based dispersion. Microencapsulated PCMs are often advantageous for use in composite materials such as coatings, fibers and other matrices where PCM leakage needs to be avoided."

Q: How long did it take to complete the project?

A: "Overall the project ran for about four years leading to the launch of the first products in 2018."

Q: Did the team surmount any unexpected challenges, technical or otherwise?

A: "The challenges were mainly those we expected – achieving microcapsules with good durability, very low levels of free wax and overcoming sub-cooling (reduction in crystallisation temperature due to microencapsulation)."

Q: When did Croda officially launch the technology commercially?

SEM photo of CrodaTherm ME29P (powder grade) A: "The first products, CrodaTherm ME 29D (50% dispersion) and CrodaTherm ME 29P (powder), which are 29º C melting point products, were launched in Q4 2018. 32º C versions will be added to the range shortly and we expect the range to be further extended with other operating temperatures in due course."

Q: Does Croda manufacture fibers and textiles with the microencapsulated PCM? Or does it manufacture the MPCM and sell it to fiber and textile manufacturers?

A: "Croda does not produce fibers or textiles, instead we specialize in offering PCMs that are developed and manufactured in-house, for use in such applications (and many more)."

Q: What specs can you share on the MPCM, such as composition, peak melt point and latent heat storage capacity?

A: "We microencapsulate CrodaTherm bio-based PCMs with an acrylic-type shell. For CrodaTherm ME 29D and ME 29P, peak melting temperature is 29ºC and latent heat is typically about 180 J/g."

Q: Does the MPCM have any properties, such as latent heat storage capacity or ease of manufacture, that sets it apart from competing products?

A: "We use internally produced bio-based PCM, rather than paraffin waxes sourced externally from the market, meaning we have full control over quality and the products have high bio-based content and excellent thermal properties."

Q: Have textiles embedded with this MPCM undergone thermal effusivity testing or other tests that would confirm their effectiveness in managing temperatures in consumer products?

A: "Several tests have been carried out to confirm the performance of materials embedded with mPCM and further work will be carried out, including thermal effusivity."

Q: Will the technology be used in any products scheduled for release this year or next?

A: "A number of projects are underway for different applications, so we’ll have to wait and see!"