Unique new building material self regulates heat

Scientific breakthrough: University invents heat-regulating building material

In a major scientific breakthrough with important long-term environmental consequences, researchers at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) have developed a material that will cut the amount of energy a building uses by more than one-third.

The material has the remarkable quality of being able to retain and release heat according to the specific temperature requirements for a building and will help dramatically reduce heating and cooling bills.

It has the unique advantage of possessing a larger energy storage capacity with faster thermal response than existing materials and could be cheaply manufactured.

If, for example, the required optimum temperature in a room is 22°C, the material can be fixed so that it starts absorbing any excess heat above that temperature.

The heat-regulating material can be used in existing buildings as well as during the construction of new real estate and could be applied anywhere, from walls and roofs to wallpaper.

The material looks like a circular tablet with the circumference of a large coin in the laboratory. It can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes, including so small that it can be sprayed as an unobtrusive microscopic film to surfaces.

The building material was recently awarded a patent application approval in China, the University was in a position to announce this week, and patent applications are in the pipeline in other countries.

It was invented by researchers at the University’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies.

The scientists responsible for the invention are: project leader Professor Jo Darkwa, who is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies; Research Associate Oliver Su; and, PhD student Tony Zhou.

“The construction industry produces more carbon emissions than any other industry in the world – even more than aviation. In China, the building sector is one of the highest energy consuming sectors, accounting for about 30% of total energy usage and also a significant proportion of pollutant emissions,” noted Professor Darkwa.

“This material, if widely used, could make a major impact in the world’s efforts to reduce carbon emission,” he said.

The basic structure of the material has to be engineered for a specific temperature before it is used. The next developmental steps will include creating material which can be used for both heating and cooling applications.

“The material won’t make air-conditioners obsolete, because you still need an air conditioner to control humidity and air movement. This material purely reduces the amount of excessive heat energy in a room,” said Professor Darkwa.

Professor Darkwa said the University is looking to develop the material further as well as commercialise it.

It already has a number of sponsors and partners involved in the research, including the Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau – which provided important funding and support for the initial two-year research – and private companies based in China.

The material could save up to 35% of energy in a building and scientists believe it could also be used in solar panels and LED (light-emitting diode) lighting to enhance the efficiency of these alternative energy-generating technologies.

Also on the cards for further research at UNNC are:

• Exploring which types of paints can be used with the unique material;

• Studies to determine the long-term environmental impacts of the use of the materials; and

• Ways to improve the production of the material to enhance cost efficiency and ensure the process is environmentally-friendly.

The new material is called: novel non-deformed energy storage phase change material (PCM).

The scientists at the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies, meanwhile, are involved in various other projects aimed at finding ways to reduce the global carbon footprint emitted by the world’s buildings.

Professor Darkwa and Dr David Chow, who leads the Architectural Environment Engineering degree programme, have played a major role in work behind new building regulation laws in Ningbo, China. Building developers in the city are compelled to include at least one sustainable energy technology, among other steps, to reduce any environmental harm associated with construction.

China’s national government is on a major drive to improve the country’s environmental track record and the University’s scientists are increasingly involved in making recommendations to policy makers at the highest levels.

In October, UNNC will be the site of China’s second international symposium on low carbon buildings when scientists, researchers, government officials and practitioners will gather to present and discuss recent research outputs and demonstration projects.

Professor Nabil Gindy, Vice-Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at UNNC, said: “The University’s strategic investment in research infrastructure to facilitate the advancement of knowledge in sustainable energy technologies is reaping rewards.

“We are very proud of the research excellence of this particular team of scientists, who have proven to be world-class specialists in the field of sustainable energy technologies. The University of Nottingham has a longstanding commitment to the global environmental agenda,” he said.

The University’s cutting-edge research feeds into all teaching programmes and PhD students, like Mr Zhou, also get the opportunity to make valuable contributions to the advancement of science, he noted.

Professor Gindy said: “Vital for our scientific progress here, too, is the huge support we receive from the Ningbo city authorities, who also recognise the importance of minimising environmental harm and placing sustainability at the forefront of all endeavours.

“We are, of course, also grateful for assistance from our research collaborators at other universities and in the private sector,” he said.

The full cost of the research entailed in developing the new building material has not been disclosed. However, it was made possible through various grants, including from the Ningbo government, KK Chung Educational Group, Hong Kong-based Sustainable Sourcing Ltd and China’s Suntech Ltd.

68 thoughts on “Unique new building material self regulates heat

  1. It’s going to be 110˚ F. in Arlington today. Please! Hurry! Get this stuff developed fast! We could use some of it here!

  2. My more than half-century experience of life tells me that “…and could be cheaply manufactured” will turn out not to be so. Here in England we were told (back in the late 1960s, I think) that nuclear power was going to be so cheap that it probably couldn’t be metered. We thought energy was going to be almost given away. Whatever happened to that?

  3. Never realised that The University of Nottingham has a campus both in China and Malaysia. Things have changed since I was a student.
    I could use a spray on version of such a material to control the temperature, preferably cool, an enclosure. I wonder if it will be available commercially?

  4. 1) where is the meat? How much energy does the material store? How does it compare to e.g. Wax?
    2) how does it work? Melting as with wax?
    3) in most places you cant just cool a space without taking care of humidity. Relative humidity will be high enough to cause problems with mildew and mold. An air conditioner cools air and removes moisture.
    [meat? do you mean heat? – mj mod]

  5. This sounds like an amazing material from the Darkwa side of the University. If it works, it will be as valuable as Kryptonite.
    It is a pity that they cannot refrain from the usual comments about relating it to saving carbon emissions, even in China. What is wrong with saying that it will save energy and improve comfort levels.

  6. My wife and I made the decision to use this stuff over ten years ago:
    http://www.homeimprovementpages.com.au/article/mud_bricks
    It works fine but you still need some heating for when external temps drop to freezing. We use a geothermal heat pump and renewable firewood in slow-combustion heaters.
    In summer, we open the windows at night and close them by day. A carefully designed overhang lets sunshine in in winter but blocks it in summer, ie, passive-solar design.
    OK, so the new high-tech may be better, but our low-tech ain’t bad.

  7. Whatever your thoughts on man’s contribution to changes in the climate, it has generated some interesting developments.

  8. If the basic structure of the material still has to be engineered for a specific temperature before it’s used, something tells me this won’t show up on the local DIY shelves anytime soon. Give it 25 years, minimum.
    The press release was pretty skimpy on the details. What kind of raw materials are needed to engineer it? Any rare earth elements involved, stuff to be mined? They’re touting reduction in pollution on the buyers’ end but what about on the manufacturing end?

  9. I’ll believe it when I see it work.
    Too much propaganda pep-talk in this article.
    Chinese and Japanese are usually taking up ideas already developed in Europe or North America; sometimes they refine them (as in the case of blue laser diode), sometimes it’s just talk.
    And even in the case of the blue laser diode, Nakamura moved to California and proclaimed that “his foot will never step on Japanese soil again.”
    I remember how much noise was made about some Chinese scientist deciphering and applying the dragonfly’s principles of flight. Nothing ever came out of it.

  10. Larry in Texas,
    110 in Arlington? That’s nothing – I was in Ningbo last week when it was 42 deg C (about 108) with 50% relative humidity. That’s a heat index of 143 deg F. Yes, it was insanely hot…
    I can see why they developed this material; Ningbo tends to get some of the highest temperatures in China!

  11. Although they have attached the word Nottingham to this and the usual AGW apologia it is fairly obvious that this is research in China by Chinese scientists, looking for a useful product to sell on the open market. Meanwhile in America the “scientists” are worried about vegetables sneaking across state borders and are pumping Co2 into the ground to find out if corn grows faster with higher CO2, (duh!). They are telling us that building a dam means the plants rot under the water and that the tides have magically changed since half the known land mass was covered in an ice sheet. Is anyone else concerned that we have provided education and government funding for this garbage.

  12. Hi
    Since this uses capsules of a phase change material, I can understand it will absorb heat from a the air in a room UNTIL the phase change has occurred.
    After the phase change has occurred, surely the material then becomes a layer of insulation on the walls / ceiling of the room, causing the temperature of the room to increase more than if the material was not employed at all.
    I am assuming that the phase change temperature is in the normal domestic range, otherwise the material would not store energy.
    I am assuming again that the energy stored would be released back into the room as the temperature falls.
    I have a couple of emergency warming packs containing a clear fluid and a metal ” snapper” . When you want to activate the pack you click the snapper through the bag, and the liquid immediately gives off heat, turning into a solid as it does so over an hour or so. To re-energise the pack I have to heat it in a pan of hot water until it turns liquid again. It can be stored indefinitely, ( unless you knock the pack accidentally ).
    If this new lining material does not need a mechanical shock to activate the phase change, then I would assume that it has a fairly tightly defined hysteresis loop and phase changes at at two temperatures on the rise and fall.
    As a previous poster wrote, some facts would be appreciated.
    P

  13. Sounds phishy. Or did they break the second law? First law has already been disproved by climate models, and now this. And for some reason, they never ever mention in their press-releases how this stuff works. Patent pending, so what are they afraid of? But ‘moire fund will be necessary’ they say.
    I call shenanigans.

  14. Always announcements along with the usual flyer on future uses and studies. And the world will get warmer with all those Chinese houses radiating their stored heat at night next door to their temperature station artfully placed by Hansen and his buddies at UEA and where Michael Mann is these days. Believe it when you see it on the shelves at Lowes and Home Depot.
    A really great “research” study would be temperature sensitive materials that alter the reflectivity of the material. The hotter and/or sunnier it becomes, the closer it gets to full reflectivity (even to a mirror – just kidding). Most homes in the developed world are heavily insulated so drawing heat out of a room won’t help much. Having a material that helps block the heat that builds in an attic in summer would be simply huge.

  15. The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
    August 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm
    My more than half-century experience of life tells me that “…and could be cheaply manufactured” will turn out not to be so. Here in England we were told (back in the late 1960s, I think) that nuclear power was going to be so cheap that it probably couldn’t be metered. We thought energy was going to be almost given away. Whatever happened to that?
    Don’t forget that it was going to be fusion power, not fission, and that in 1960 it was only 50 years away. And that there is enough Deuterium, and Tritium in the oceans to last forever. And don’t forget that we were also promised jet packs. Where is my damned jet pack?

  16. `Phase change` materials for use in inside buildings on walls is not new in good old Blighty, but their particular process/material may be. The Shell springboard awards in the u.k. had this out around three years ago.
    All we have to do now is get it out of everyones `bright ideas box` and start making it commercially, and then convince people to buy it. Thats the tricky bit.

  17. This sounds like a hoax to me. First the fact that the building industry is the largest CO2 producer (It’s the making of cement that uses over 12% of all energy) has nothing to do with running the building. A complete red herring, so why mention it at all unless to “impress” us? Then the remark that it can be sprayed as microfilm onto existing walls, and presumably still have this wonderful effect is the giveaway: the heat absorbed from the room has to go somewhere and the specific heat capacity of this material must be truly gigantic not to raise the temperature of the material. Otherwise this article tells us that heat will start to flow from cold to warm materials, which, if I remember the courses in thermodynamics from my student days correctly, is rather opposite how nature actually works.
    Nottingham, by the way, was the place where Robin Hood came from. Odd name for a Chinese institute, but perhaps an indication of the real agenda here?

  18. Friends:
    The article about the novel material is strong on claims but devoid of useful information.
    It is an old idea to reduce temperature variation in a building by absorbing excess heat of the day in the building’s structure and releasing that heat in the cool of the night. In the Middle Ages castles were built with thick internal walls to do this.
    But the article claims the novel material does more than that. It claims;
    “The material has the remarkable quality of being able to retain and release heat according to the specific temperature requirements for a building and will help dramatically reduce heating and cooling bills.
    It has the unique advantage of possessing a larger energy storage capacity with faster thermal response than existing materials and could be cheaply manufactured.
    If, for example, the required optimum temperature in a room is 22°C, the material can be fixed so that it starts absorbing any excess heat above that temperature.”
    But it is not possible to evaluate those claims unless and until each and every of the following questions is answered.
    What type is this material?
    (This affects bulk manufacturing capability.)
    What does the material really cost (in both money and availability of source minerals)?
    How does the material “retain and release heat according to the specific temperature requirements”?
    (Perhaps it absorbs by a phase change, e.g. melting?)
    How is the material “fixed” so it “starts absorbing any excess heat above” more than one specified temperature?
    (If it absorbs heat by a phase change then this could be difficult to achieve.)
    How much heat can it absorb per unit of its mass and per unit of its volume?
    (This directly affects its affectiveness for its intended purpose.)
    How fast can it absorb heat from a room that is too warm?
    (This directly affects its usefulness for its intended purpose.)
    How fast can it release heat to a room that is too cool?
    (This also directly affects its usefulness for its intended purpose.)
    Richard

  19. Sounds extremely useful, I hope that it does not turn out to be ‘to good to be true.’
    The big appeal is that it can be used on buildings without the need to adapt the building. For example, I live in Spain and the house does not have cavity walls (so can not use cavity wall insulation) nor is it insulated. In the winter although night temperatures are rarely below 8 degC (usually they are just in double figures), it gets extremely cold. The converse in Summer, when night temperatures are near the mid twenties. The property has high ceilings for coolness in the summer but that makes effective heating in the winter more difficult and more expensive. To make the house energy efficient would require major adaption/building work the costs of which would be prohibitive.
    Obviously, it is easy to paint the internal walls of the building and if this material does ‘what it says on the tin’, it will make a huge difference.
    I intend keeping an eye on this and hopefully the product will find its way to market in the next few years at a competitive cost and live up to its maker’s claims.

  20. Mike Jonas says:
    August 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
    We use a geothermal heat pump and renewable firewood in slow-combustion heaters.
    What the hell is “renewable firewood”, and where can I get some?

  21. Phase changes in wood sap help to make log cabins cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If the principle can be extended to main stream construction, and the economics work, this will be a useful development.

  22. Re: Roger Sowell and “ThermalCORE”. I followed this link, and from a link to the manufacturer’s site, where it says “not commercially available”. The most recent update in their “news” section is October, 2010. Not terribly encouraging for something introduced in 2004.
    There is a long path from “looks really neat in the lab” to commercially practical. I’m still waiting for some of the things I read about in Popular Mechanics in the late 1960’s.
    Maybe this will pan out; maybe it won’t. But it’s always interesting to read about possibilities.

  23. The article above could be written about virtually any type of building material. This sounds like marketing jibberish. Bricks, stucco, and drywall are all “self-regulating.” The problem is you have to build based on a certain set of assumptions, but hey, weather is weather.

  24. @Zuiderwijk
    Robin Hood did not come from Nottingham. He came from Wakefield, Yorkshire, near the bus station (tho’ that was not there then).

  25. SimonJ – Please note it’s not instantly renewable – that would indeed be handy. The renewing process takes a while, but all you have to do is wait for the CO2, ash, etc,to be turned back into trees. If you’re prepared to pay extra, I’m sure you could find firewood on sale with “renewable” stamped on it. As a side note, it always disturbs me that the greenies, who are the people whose rhetoric is so in favour of “renewables”, are so opposed to the great renewable industries such as forestry and hydroelectric power. They are even attacking agriculture now, seeing global dangers in cow farts, of all things. They don’t seem to understand that today’s cow farts are tomorrow’s essentials. Every time you tuck into bacon and eggs, for instance, part of it has passed through a cow fart.

  26. And….what about those walking and negentropic machines fueled by garbage food, burning it with oxygen and producing, each, an amount of more than two pounds of CO2 per day while radiating IR (heat), currently called humans?

  27. The end of UHI effect?
    Mike Jonas says:
    August 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
    “What the hell is “renewable firewood”, and where can I get some?”
    Its called Pine and it spits cinders all over your carpets when the resin gets warm!

  28. As a Contractor I got 2 words for you: “”Chinese Drywall”. I wouldn’t trust anything coming out of that country for all the tea in…well, you get the point.

  29. To retain heat is a thermodynamic impossibility. The 2nd law forbids it. Everything will release heat when above ambient temperature. Insulation slows the heat loss but cannot stop it.

  30. @ John Marshall
    “To retain heat is a thermodynamic impossibility……”
    As sensible heat I agree But as mechanical stress in a phase change chemical it definitely is possible!
    My emergency heat packs sit in our car glove box for years at the ambient temperature of the car.
    However when I ping the clicker in the liquid, the phase change from liquid to solid occurs and a useful amount of heat is emitted as the liquid solidifies. (for about 45 minutes) Very useful relief for my wife who sometimes has rheumatic hip pain, whilst traveling in the car.
    regards
    P

  31. As long as it has insulation properties equal to or better than the materials it replaces, great idea.
    But if you don’t have the temperature swings that go above and below the “set-point” of the material, it’s just insulation. A red flag goes up that this is a prime candidate for “green” tax credits and subsidies …. and our building/remodeling costs are going up….whether it works or not.

  32. Combined with LENR and CANR, this material will create a new reality. One in which energy will be created or saved to the extent that we end up with more than we started with. The new problem – runaway spontaneous energy production. Despite all of our efforts to use this excess energy in as many frivolous ways as we can imagine, we will lose the battle. The icecaps will melt, global temps will rise, the oceans will boil away and within the century the earth will burst into flames. Trust me, I have a predictive model.

  33. When I went out west for vacation a few years ago, we spent a good deal of time exploring the old structures built by the Native Americans. We marveled that no matter how hot it was outside (over 100 degrees F, most days), the temperature inside was comfortable. They built with mud-brick and stacked stone, with walls about a foot thick.
    The structures were not sealed up in any way; they had open doors and windows. One can only imagine how much better the structures would have mitigated the swings in temperature if they had doors and windows that could be opened when the inside needed to be heated or cooled, and shut when the outside temperature was hotter or cooler than what was desired.
    If I were to build a new home today, there is no question that I would build it with walls that had a large thermal mass and used the position of the sun to the best advantage. It’s entirely possible that air-conditioning might be completely unnecessary if the home is built right.
    With mud and stone being just about the cheapest materials known to man, why would we need to develop any artificial material to do the job that dirt and rock do so well?

  34. For anyone confused by this, it functions by storing energy.
    During the cooling season, it absorbs heat over the course of the day by changing from solid to liquid then releases it overnight by turning back into a solid. It is exactly like freezing a bunch of ice overnight and blowing air over it to keep your house cool during the day.
    It saves energy because cooling it overnight is cheaper and requires less energy. In places like Denver where you have large daily temperature swings you could get by with a much smaller or no air conditioning system.

  35. Ed Zuiderwijk says:
    August 4, 2011 at 3:30 am
    “Nottingham, by the way, was the place where Robin Hood came from. Odd name for a Chinese institute, but perhaps an indication of the real agenda here?”
    The campus in China is a branch of the University of Nottingham in the East Midlands of the UK

  36. The basic idea is to keep the heat out on hot days and in on cold days. Phase change is a possible strategy, but limited to the heat capacity of the material. Insulation does not try to retain heat, and is not so limited. Thermal ballast (mud walls, water-filled walls) is another possiblity.
    A stack of alternating layers of reflective foil (aluminum, copper) and non-conducting fiber (cellulose, glass) makes an EXCELLENT insulator, useful for keeping liquid nitrogen cold for weeks at a time, or protecting fire fighters. It will work in walls, too.
    It will *always* be more cost effective to use low-tech materials, even if you must use more of them.

  37. I agree with the above posters that think this is pie in the sky science.
    Yes, contrary to the above statement heat can be stored. Phase changes in most materials eg from solid to liquid to gas tend to store large amounts of heat. Look at a steam table or a refrigerator.
    Adding a couple inches of wax that melts sharply at 70deg F would do exactly what the article claims. The thermostat on most vehicles is based on the density change of a wax pellet that is blended to melt sharply at the control temperature. The change in density could cause (will cause, probably) a significant challenge using any material with this property as a building material and the cost of manufacture.
    Spraying a thin coat of this material won’t do squat unless this stuff stores enormous quantities of heat compared to it’s mass and density in which case it will be used in batteries long before ot gets pasted to your walls. Toxicity is probably a factor in using it on the interior surfaces of your home, talk about exposure. It better be made of vitamins and happy feelings.

  38. If a phase change material has more heat capacity than water, it will be a good product. You can place some water in a partially evacuated container and ‘set’ the boiling point to pretty much whatever you like. That is how a heat pipe works: phase change at a predetermined temperature, which is different from its normal boiling or freezing point, but it is used to transport heat, not hang onto it
    It is known that placing water in an electrical charge will solidify it (search for ‘hot ice’ in proteins). Is there a normal heat release when this happens? I think so. That is another method of pulling heat into or out of an object: an electrically induced phase change.

  39. Wait. Did I miss something? There’s a Chinese Patent authority? And they care about who owns rights to something potentially valuable?

  40. Scott Covert says:
    August 4, 2011 at 8:19 am
    Adding a couple inches of wax that melts sharply at 70deg F would do exactly what the article claims. The thermostat on most vehicles is based on the density change of a wax pellet that is blended to melt sharply at the control temperature. The change in density could cause (will cause, probably) a significant challenge using any material with this property as a building material and the cost of manufacture.

    Why not do as the bees do? Encapsulate the wax inside a strong hexagonal honeycomb. Polycarbonate or carbon fiberglass springs to mind, 4″ thick for interstud application, 4’x8′ sheets for drywall substitution.
    Commercial applications are dancing in my financial $$$ vision. GK

  41. looks like a free lunch scam to me … if the material removes heat from a room it has to go somewhere … it doesn’t just eat it …
    vvvvv Sun vvvv
    xxxxxxxxx roof xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    nnnnnnn new insulation nnnnnnn
    hhhhhh hot air in room hhhhhhh
    explain to me where the heat absorbed by this new insulation will go ?

  42. Mike Jonas says:
    August 4, 2011 at 5:55 am
    “They are even attacking agriculture now, seeing global dangers in cow farts, of all things. They don’t seem to understand that today’s cow farts are tomorrow’s essentials. Every time you tuck into bacon and eggs, for instance, part of it has passed through a cow fart.”
    Actually the greenhouse gas comes out the other end. Cows don’t fart much but they belch constantly eating high celluose foods like grass. Methane comes out in the belch. The methane is produced by a bacteria in the fore-stomach of ruminants. If that bacteria weren’t there they would not be able to digest grass, hay, and alfalfa. The amount of methane ruminant livestock produce is directly related to what you feed them. Higher nutrition foods produce little and low nutrient foods produce a lot.

  43. Good example of urban myth that cows fart more than the next guy (pound for pound of course). All farts are primarily methane to the delight of juvenile male humans who are sometimes known to ignite their own emissions for the enternment value. I looked about and it seems to be a common misconception. Probably just because it sounds cooler to say “fart” in a Beevis and Butthead sort of way. I guess if you don’t ignite farts the next best thing is to find justifiable opportunities to say the word.
    So all animals with a large intestine generate methane which exits posterior. The difference between you and the cow that makes the cow produce more methane is the cow has a fore-stomach populated with bacteria that can break down cellulose. Most of the methane they emit is produced in the fore-stomach (also called the rumen) and comes back up in a belch just like the predigested cellulose is regugitated for a second chew to make it back into a slurry and introduce fresh digestive enzymes resident in saliva.
    What’s more interesting than cow farts is cow spit. A single cow eating a high cellulose diet can produce over 10 gallons of saliva each day. Most of gets recycled. It’s produced while they chew in copious amounts (both raw food and cud), swallowed, and reabsorbed in the rumen. That’s a helluvalotta cow spit.

  44. Jeff Carlson says:
    August 4, 2011 at 9:34 am
    “explain to me where the heat absorbed by this new insulation will go ?”
    They talk about a high heat capacity so I presume one of its primary properties is high thermal inertia and low mass. In other words it has the thermal inertia of a cinderblock only with far less total mass and volume.
    The other key property appears to be thermal mass that varies with temperature.
    So in effect it does the same thing as opening your windows on a warm day to let the walls, floors, and ceilings soak up the heat then closing those windows at night to retain the heat. Or doing the opposite to cool the house at night by opening windows and closing them during the day.
    This material, near as I can tell, does the same as opening and closing windows at appropriate times to reduce heating and cooling requirements. Only this stuff does it without actually any air so humidity remains unchanged which may be a problem when the outside air is too dry or moist for best comfort.

  45. Chuckarama said:
    August 4, 2011 at 9:16 am
    “Wait. Did I miss something? There’s a Chinese Patent authority? And they care about who owns rights to something potentially valuable?”
    It would depend on who invented the product…if the chinese invented something, they will do anything to protect it, if you invent something, so solly….

  46. SimonJ says:
    August 4, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Mike Jonas says:
    August 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
    We use a geothermal heat pump and renewable firewood in slow-combustion heaters.
    What the hell is “renewable firewood”, and where can I get some?

    It’s greener than fossil firewood. Probably more BTUs/joules too. 🙂

  47. Perhaps a good analogy for this phase change materials are rechargeable batteries. They charge by storing heat, they discharge by releasing heat. At partial charge they have a certain temperature (voltage) which falls off when they’re discharged. Their overcharge response is to just stop absorbing heat as phase change and their temperature climbs. (That’s a better overcharge performance than what real batteries exhibit.)

  48. One issue I have is the lack of an on/off switch. A lot of the heat could be wasted overnight when peole are asleep..
    Occasionally architects have incorporated a swimming pool in to designs for office blocks. The air conditioning would heat the pool through summer and extract it during winter. I think some self build people have also had a large pool in their basement and done the same thing. I am not sure how effective this is in reducing fuel demand, or what issues could be caused by the moisture, but it does sound a more fun method. And it has an on/off switch!

  49. All this and nary a mention of geoengineering. I guess we can add white coloring and spray Kilimanjaro with the stuff. Or green it up and use it like Astroturf. That should cool Texas off. Or maybe build a wall of it to keep Cold air from Canuckistan from mixing with all that humidity from the overheated GOM. But we should be reminded that in so doing, we’ll have to stop burning coal in China, because its special ingredients are causing cooling already. Whatever works. Not warming? Release some of that heat, then. Cooling too much? Now that’s a problem we haven’t addressed. Cheap to manufacture? Not if the IPCC gets a claw under one edge. Like the data, they cherrypick the patent as well.
    Sigh.

  50. I wonder if fire breathing dragon legend began with some juvenile human male discovering that he could ignite cow burps to much more spectacular effect than igniting his own comparatively puny emissions…

  51. PCMs (phase change materials) do not violate any thermodynamic laws. For the purposes discussed in this post, wax is a type of PCM. Waxes can be obtained that will melt at just about any temperature up to several hundred degrees F. Heat at a higher temperature outside the wall is absorbed by the wall and then is transferred into the house by both thermal radiation and convection into the air. Heat flows from hot to cold, thus complying with the Second Law.
    With a wall that contains PCM, the incoming heat is absorbed by the PCM so that the PCM melts. The melting is a constant-temperature process as the PCM changes from a solid to a liquid. In the BASF material, the PCM is contained in tiny plastic spheres and imbedded in the drywall. Because the PCM is melting, very little heat is transferred into the interior of the house. If there is sufficient PCM in the wall, the sun goes down before all the PCM melts, and the outdoor temperature drops. The PCM then begins to solidify, and transfers heat in the other direction, back to the ambient air outside the home.
    There is no magic to any of this, it has been known for a very long time. The issues are cost to benefit ratio, long-term stability of the PCM, environmental issues if and when the PCM leaks into the wall material. With energy costs low, the benefit from using PCM is likely not worth the extra cost. Where electric power prices are rapidly escalating – due to renewable energy mandates or new nuclear power plants – it is likely that PCM wallboard will enjoy more use.
    To the commenter that wrote the BASF product is not commercially available, that turns out not to be the case. see http://www.thermalcore.info/product-info.htm

  52. Ah, yes, what is old is now new again.
    In the late 1970’s I did a summer as a intern at an “Institute for Energy Conservation” associated with a well known university on the east coast of ths USA. They were working on solar cells that would be so cheap people could use them as roofing shingles. (ok that one didn’t work out so well, but it sure sounded GOOD).
    They also were working on phase change materials (wax) that could be installed in the walls of a building. As the wall started to heat up the wax would melt and absorb a bunch of energy thus keeping the wall cool. Later in the day the wax would solidify as the wall cooled back down.
    They even had prototypes using the sausage packaging technology of the day. Have you seen the sausages packed in plastic tubes with metal staples/clips on the ends ? Jimmy Dean anyone ?
    Old idea, same old problems; cost/stabilty/toxicity of the raw materials, leakage of the packaging, training of the installers, etc. etc.
    At the time we had a president telling us we were going to run out of “fossil” fuels in a decade.
    Then the next president deregulated interstate commerce in natural gas and all of a sudden we had lots of it……….. And now we have even more……… Unless somebody stops us from using it.
    Cheers, Kevin.

  53. I’ve seen heat figures of 22 BTU/sq.ft a being the phase change in gypsum panels with Micronal beads. Not having a gut feel for what a BTU is, I have to do calculations and those say it’s something like 250 kJ/m^2. Direct sunlight could provide that much energy in less than half an hour.
    As for energy stored in the phase change, that energy must be allowed to be removed so the room has to get colder than the phase-change temperature. Else further heat input will result in a simple elevation of surface temperature, dependent upon the specific heat of the panel; and the temperature conditions on the other side of the surface.

  54. Bernd Felsche:
    Micronal beads don’t cut it. Hundreds of kilograms of wax (or similar substance) in each outside wall is needed. Wax at about 200–220 kJ/kg heat of fusion, will require a lot of mass to make effective constant inside temperature control. There is plenty of room between studs for such quantity, but at a buck a pound, costs could get quite high and I don’t even want to contemplate the fire hazard. New materials and techniques, however may overcome some of these problems. GK

  55. Mike Jonas says:
    August 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
    Well done there Mike. I wouldn’t have been able to lay the bricks nicely. Also no framework and very little timber used. Considering the amount of concrete used this house build method is NOT green. But the thermal mass of internal concrete which is entirely insulated from the outside world makes for a very stable internal temperature. The upside is my annual heating bills are most reasonable. Belated thought, adobe may not be a suitable material in the UK. Rains a lot. 🙂

  56. “I bet the material is lead.”
    I read the label on the “lead free” plumbing solder the other day. Instead of lead, they use antimony.
    From wikipedia: “the effects of antimony poisoning are similar to arsenic poisoning.”
    Both are toxic, but only lead is regulated. Well, that is certainly a relief…

Comments are closed.