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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 mats helped lift Virginia Tech to first place in Solar Decathlon

Ben Welter - Monday, February 18, 2019

FutureHAUS, front elevation

The Virginia Tech team that won first place in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East credits a good share of its success to the deft use of phase change material donated by Insolcorp LLC of New London, N.C.

FutureHAUS, the lone U.S. entry, topped 13 other finalists and more than 60 total entrants in the competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Electricity & Water Authority. Australia's University of Wollongong finished second. The finals took place in November in the desert heat of Dubai.

Insolcorp donated 400 square feet of two types of Infinite R PCM mats. Both are salt hydrates, one with a melt point of 21 degrees Celsius, the other a melt point of 22 degrees C. The phase change material acts as a thermal battery, absorbing and releasing thermal energy as it solidifies and melts.

The Virginia Tech team deployed the mats in the plenum of its 900-square-foot solar-powered house. The PCM allowed the team to take advantage of a rule that limited the use of solar energy to 8kw at any one time, with one exception: Unlimited use of solar energy for air conditioning was allowed during daily inspection periods to assure visitor comfort. The PCM mats, solidified during those periods, helped keep the house comfortable at other times. That helped the FutureHAUS achieve the highest score in net energy use, a key metric in the competition.

Joseph Wheeler, AIA"Every team struggled with the 8kw limit," said Joseph Wheeler, right, lead faculty on FutureHAUS and co-director of Virginia Tech's Center for Design Research. "Typically, during peak energy, you would be generating lots and lots of power, which you could easily charge your batteries with, which you could easily run all your tasks, and you could feed the grid, and build up quite a bit of surplus so that you would remain energy positive throughout the two weeks of competition.

"But, since they limited inverter use at any one time to 8kw, it really put a limit to what our energy budget was. We saw phase change as batteries. A massive ton of batteries. ... It's more of a strategy for a competition than it is for a realized situation. But in a realized situation, we know the value of the PCM. Heat energy, cost of power being cheaper at night than during the day where you can charge your systems and load shift. Practically, PCMs make a lot of sense. And we wanted to have the PCMs in this house for practical reasons, not just for competition reasons. ...

"In simple terms, we eased the demand for the HVAC every afternoon. It was the hottest time of the day and it was also the time when we were getting less power from the solar panels because the sun was moving down. It was a critical time because we knew that once the sun went down, we had to survive on battery. And we had a limit. They limited every house to 15kw of battery."

FutureHAUS, kitchenThe FutureHAUS team finished in the top three in eight of the competition's 10 categories: first place in Architecture, House Functioning and Sustainable Transportation; second place in Sustainability and Innovation; and third place in Engineering/Construction, Energy Efficiency and Comfort Conditions.

The FutureHAUS entry was a two-year university-wide effort. More than 100 Virginia Tech students helped design and build the structure, with help from faculty members in architecture, urban studies, science, engineering and other departments.

The house consists of 18 modular  "cartridges" built inside a Virginia Tech research facility. It was first assembled on campus in Blacksburg, Va., last summer. After testing, it was disassembled, shipped to Dubai and then reassembled at the competition site in just two days. It has since been shipped back to Blacksburg, where it will undergo testing to measure its various energy-saving components.

"We now have a system in place where we can collect data and can truly test the performance," Wheeler said. "We know the PCM worked for us during the competition because we did have some temperature sensors in the ceiling. And so we were able to prove that we were reaching the pre-state when those PCMs were being charged. But we really want to collect a lot more data and look at it in real-world situations."

PCM briefing: PureTemp joins RSPO; Reda's new PCM fabric on display in Milan

Ben Welter - Monday, February 18, 2019

PureTemp LLC has joined the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil as an associate member. The nonprofit organization, which has more than 4,000 members worldwide, promotes the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products. In November, RSPO adopted stricter standards for certified sustainable palm oil, including a total ban on deforestation by its members.

Reda Group's new Active Phase temperature-control fabric was on display at the Milan fabric trade show earlier this month. The material uses phase change material to keep body temperature constant when ambient temperature fluctuates. Reda says the material features enhanced breathability and softness and is "easy to clean, even in water."

University of Maryland fabric•  University of Maryland researchers have created a temperature-control fabric that does not rely on phase change material. The fabric changes its insulating properties in response to the environment. In warm and humid conditions, the fabric allows radiant heat to pass through. When conditions become cooler and drier, the fabric reduces the heat that escapes. Two types of synthetic materials in the fabric — one that absorbs water and another other that repels it — are coated with carbon nanotubes. The fibers warp and relax in response to changing humidity, opening and closing pores in the fabric. 

• In interviews with Advanced Textiles Source, four entrepreneurs were asked: What do you wish you had known early on when you were first dealing with intellectual property law and patent issues? “Get feedback on why you need a patent,” said Jeremy Wall, founder and CEO of smart-clothing startup Lumenus. “Where else could you spend $20,000?” Said Matt Kolmes, CEO of VOLT Smart Yarns: “Even if you are on a tight budget, file that Provisional application immediately before you show your idea to anyone, or talk about it with anyone."

• The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action program is seeking applicants for a one- to two-year research fellowship at the Oslo Metropolitan University. The European Union-funded fellowship will focus on the energy-performance aspects of phase change material in buildings. "In this collaboration," OsloMet says, "we intend to gain our understanding and explore about the micro-structural aspect to relate the macro-scale behavior at continuum level." The application deadline is March 7.

Patent application: Battery pack containing phase change material

Ben Welter - Thursday, February 14, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190051955 (applicant Consortium de Recherche BRP / Universite de Sherbrooke, Canada):

"A battery pack for a vehicle is presented. The battery pack comprises a plurality of bricks, each brick of the plurality of bricks comprising a phase change material block, a side of the phase change material block defining a plurality of channels, and a plurality of battery cells, each battery cell being disposed at least in part in the phase change material block; and at least one connector for electrically connecting a first one of the plurality of bricks to a second one of the plurality of bricks, the at least one connector being disposed at least partially in one of the plurality of channels."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190051955.pdf

Research roundup: Self-luminous wood composite; palmitic acid/mullite composite; corrosion sensitivity of metal alloys; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

From Energy Storage Materials:

Self-luminous wood composite for both thermal and light energy storage

From International Journal of Refrigeration:

The thermal performances of a refrigerator incorporating a Phase Change Material

From Renewable Energy:

Enhanced thermal conductivity of palmitic acid/mullite phase change composite with graphite powder for thermal energy storage
An experimental study on the corrosion sensitivity of metal alloys for usage in PCM thermal energy storages

From Energy Conversion and Management:

Sorption thermal energy storage: Hybrid coating/granules adsorber design and hybrid TCM/PCM operation
Novel hybrid microencapsulated phase change materials incorporated wallboard for year-long year energy storage in buildings

From Thermochimica Acta:

Experimental Investigation on Thermal Properties of Sodium Acetate Trihydrate based Phase Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage
The preparation of AgI/Au/foam-Cu as a framework of composite for water-based cool storage phase-change material with low supercooling

From Energy and Buildings:

Nano-encapsulation of phase change materials: from design to thermal performance, simulations and toxicological assessment
Investigation of phase change materials integrated with fin-tube baseboard convector for space heating

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Nano-enhancement of phase change material in a shell and multi-PCM-tube heat exchanger

From Applied Energy:

Numerical investigation of phase change material thermal storage for space cooling

From Journal of Materials Chemistry A:

Vertically aligned carbon fibers as supporting scaffolds for phase change composites with anisotropic thermal-conductivity and good shape-stability

Research roundup: Thermal conductivity; decarbonization potential of compact heat storage; liquid desiccant cooling systems; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, February 06, 2019

From Energy:

Effects of thermal conductivity and density on phase change materials-based thermal energy storage systems

From Renewable Energy:

Melting process investigation of phase change materials in a shell and tube heat exchanger enhanced with heat pipe

From Applied Thermal Engineering:

Compact latent heat storage decarbonisation potential for domestic hot water and space heating applications in the UK
Numerical and experimental study of phase-change temperature controller containing graded cellular material fabricated by additive manufacturing
A novel composite phase change material with paraffin wax in tailings porous ceramics
Characterisation and evaluation of a new phase change enhanced working solution for liquid desiccant cooling systems
Thermal properties enhancement and application of a novel sodium acetate trihydrate-formamide/expanded graphite shape-stabilized composite phase change material for electric radiant floor heating

From Environmental Research:

Latent heat storage biocomposites of phase change material-biochar as feasible eco-friendly building materials

From Colloids and Surfaces A:

A facile microencapsulation of phase change materials within silicone-based shells by using glass capillary devices

From Microporous and Mesoporous Materials:

Phase change in modified metal organic frameworks MIL-101(Cr): Mechanism on highly improved energy storage performance

From Applied Energy:

Role of porous metal foam on the heat transfer enhancement for a thermal energy storage tube
Energy saving performance assessment and lessons learned from the operation of an active phase change materials system in a multi-storey building in Melbourne

From Building and Environment:

Comparative analysis of the PCM application according to the building type as retrofit system

From Construction and Building Materials:

Evaluation of the potential use of form-stable phase change materials to improve the freeze-thaw resistance of concrete

From Results in Physics:

Application Research of Nano-storage Materials in Cold Chain Logistics of E-commerce Fresh Agricultural Products

From Journal of Energy Storage:

Using PCM as energy storage material in water tanks: Theoretical and experimental investigation

Research roundup: Micro environmental control system; alkali nitrate salts; sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate; more

Ben Welter - Tuesday, January 22, 2019

From Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering :

Phase Change Material Freezing in an Energy Storage Module for a Micro Environmental Control System
Phase Change Material Melting in an Energy Storage Module for a Micro Environmental Control System

From Renewable Energy:

Form-stable oxalic acid dihydrate/glycolic acid-based composite PCMs for thermal energy storage
Molecular simulation of the structure and physical properties of alkali nitrate salts for thermal energy storage

From Applied Energy:

Effect of inclination on the thermal response of composite phase change materials for thermal energy storage

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Characterization and thermal performance of microencapsulated sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate as phase change material for thermal energy storage
Fabrication and applications of dual-responsive microencapsulated phase change material with enhanced solar energy-storage and solar photocatalytic effectiveness

From Energy:

Numerical investigations of optimal phase change material incorporated into ventilated walls

From Polymer Degradation and Stability:

EG-based coatings for flame retardance of shape stabilized phase change materials

From Construction and Building Materials:

Freeze-thaw performance of phase change material (PCM) incorporated pavement subgrade soil

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Patent application: Radiative cooling with solar spectrum reflection

Ben Welter - Tuesday, January 22, 2019

U.S. patent application 20190017758 (applicant Board of Trustees of Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.):

"Aspects of the present disclosure are directed toward radiative cooling with solar spectrum reflection. In certain more specific embodiments, a structure facilitates far-field radiation at particular wavelengths while blocking radiation at solar wavelengths. Additionally, aspects of the present disclosure allow for twenty-four hour cooling of buildings and similar structures, and for cooling through a heat exchange to other liquid, gases, or solids. ... The heat exchange interface may further interface with phase-change materials either directly or indirectly to allow for thermal storage driven by the radiative properties of the plurality of different materials."

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20190017758.pdf

Research roundup: Solar storage tank; concentric PCM module; supercooling degree improvement; more

Ben Welter - Monday, January 21, 2019

From Journal of Thermal Science:

Energy Storage Performance of a PCM in the Solar Storage Tank

From International Journal of Applied Engineering Research:

Numerical assessment of suitability of phase-change materials in a concentric PCM-module for thermal storage applications [pdf]

From International Journal of Energy Research:

Experimental measurements and numerical computation of nanofluid and microencapsulated phase change material in porous material

From IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering:

Nano-enhanced phase change material effects on the supercooling degree improvement: A review

From Renewable Energy:

Potential of ventilation systems with thermal energy storage using PCMs applied to air conditioned buildings

From Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Technology:

Thermal performance analysis of nano enhanced paraffin wax and myristic acid

From Solar Energy:

Synthesis and characterization of microencapsulated phase change materials with comb-like acrylic co-polymer shell as thermal energy storage materials
Sensible and latent heat energy storage systems for concentrated solar power plants, exergy efficiency comparison

From Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells:

Thermal energy storage characteristics of myristic acid-palmitic eutectic mixtures encapsulated in PMMA shell

From Thermal Science and Engineering Progress:

Parametric analysis and optimization of an underfloor solar assisted heating system with phase change materials

From International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer:

The improved enthalpy-transforming based lattice Boltzmann model for solid-liquid phase change

From Applied Energy:

Innovative design of superhydrophobic thermal energy-storage materials by microencapsulation of n-docosane with nanostructured ZnO/SiO2 shell

From AIP Conference Proceedings:

Preparation and characterization of nanoparticle blended polymers for thermal energy storage applications

PCM with enhanced thermal properties developed for rail/truck container

Ben Welter - Saturday, January 12, 2019

Professor Yulong DingYulong Ding, the University of Birmingham professor who directed the development of a rail/truck shipping container designed to keep perishables cold without a power supply, says his team developed an organic phase change material with enhanced thermal properties for the project. The PCM is designed to keep the temperature inside the container between 5 and 12˚ C for up to 120 hours. Ding, director of the university's Center for Energy Storage, provided additional detail on the project in an interview this week.

Q: Describe your organization's role in the project.

A: It was funded by CRRC Shijiazhuang, a Chinese railway equipment manufacturer, and the project was collaborative. Our work at Birmingham included PCM materials development and fabrication, cold storage device design and testing, cold charging method and design. Work began in October 2017.

Q: What role did CRRC Shijiazhuang play?

A: CRRC was the project sponsor. Their work included manufacture and test of the device and cold charge device, installation of cold storage devices into large container, data-logging and IT, real application demonstration and testing (35,000 km combined road and railway testing across a wide climate zones).

Q: Can you briefly describe the testing methods and results?

A: I believe two standard containers were used, goods include all sorts of vegetables, flowers and fruits. Energy saving data have not been processed for the real tests but we do have testing data from labs, which is around 20 percent.

Q: Describe the PCM used in the application.

A: We used organic based PCM reformulated for enhanced thermal properties. Melting temperatures can be turned between -4 and 4 degree C, and the thermal storage capacity is >~200 kJ/kg.

Q: How big are the rail containers, typically, and how much PCM is used in each container?

A: We used the standard container for road transportation, which can be used for rail use. I prefer not to say the amount of PCM used, which may need approval from our sponsor.

Q: How is the PCM charged, and how long does it take to charge the PCM in a typical container?

A: We have a mobile charge device. The charging time is relatively short. The details will need our sponsor to approve before I can tell.

Q: In what material is the PCM contained (HDPE, film, metal)?

A: We used composite PCM contained in PCM storage device.

Q: How is the PCM deployed in the rail containers?

A: The PCM devices are installed inside the container.

Q: Does CRRC plan to manufacture the rail containers?

A: I doubt they would make the container.

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2018/12/scientists-develop-world-first-cold-storage-roadrail-container.aspx

Microtek sponsors Spanish entry in Solar Decathlon Europe 2019

Ben Welter - Saturday, January 12, 2019

A team representing the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, plans to use phase change material in the energy-efficient home it is building for Solar Decathlon Europe 2019. Azalea, one of 16 teams selected for the competition, is made up of 30 students and professionals representing fields such as architecture and engineering. 

Microtek Laboratories of Dayton, Ohio, is providing Azalea with technical and financial support.

Tim Riazzi"We are proud to be a sponsor of the Polytechnic team and the Azalea Project," said Tim Riazzi, Microtek president. "As a company who practices and is concerned with environmental stewardship, we are excited about their efforts to create a sustainable ecological dwelling that will reduce our impact on the environment and reduce our energy consumption." 

Riazzi said Microtek provided Azalea with Micronal 28D (formerly Micronal 5528X).

"Instead of providing them with a final product," Riazzi said, "we have worked with the team and decided that it would be better to provide them our dried Micronal product so that they could use it in the specific areas that they needed. We can say that they are incorporating it into a variety of elements/components of their wall and floor design, but they have asked us not to divulge the exact use of it because the competition is active. ... We can say that we have provide them over 200 kg of material."

https://www.microteklabs.com/blog/azalea-project-solar-decathlon-europe