Low-Cost Bio-Based Phase Change Materials as an Energy Storage Medium in Building Envelopes

Apr 13, 2015

A promising approach to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings is the implementation of phase change material (PCM) in building envelope systems. Several studies have reported the energy saving potential of PCM in building envelopes. However, wide application of PCMs in building applications has been inhibited, in part, by their high cost. This article describes a novel paraffin product made of naturally occurring fatty acids/glycerides trapped into high density polyethylene (HDPE) pellets and its performance in a building envelope application, with the ultimate goal of commercializing a low-cost PCM platform. The low-cost PCM pellets were mixed with cellulose insulation, installed in external walls and field-tested under natural weatherization conditions for a period of several months. In addition, several PCM samples and PCM-cellulose samples were prepared under controlled conditions for laboratory-scale testing. The laboratory tests were performed to determine the phase change properties of PCM-enhanced cellulose insulation both at microscopic and macroscopic levels.

This article presents the data and analysis from the exterior test wall and the laboratory-scale test data. PCM behavior is influenced by the weather and interior conditions, PCM phase change temperature and PCM distribution within the wall cavity, among other factors. Under optimal conditions, the field data showed up to 20% reduction in weekly heat transfer through an external wall due to the PCM compared to cellulose-only insulation.

(This entry contains a conference paper and presentation in PDF. For optimal viewing, open in Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Kaushik Biswas, Energy and Transportation Science Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridg
Nitin Shukla, Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, USA
Jan Kosny, Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, USA
Ramin Abhari, Renewable Energy Group Synthetic Fuels, LLC (formerly Syntroleum), Tulsa, OK, USA
Proceedings of the BEST4 Conference
Presented at: 
BEST4 Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
BEST4 Technical Committee, National Institute of Building Sciences

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