nano-Structured PCM Composites for Compact Space Heating: n-CoSH

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Engineering


Energy storage plays a crucial role in building a sustainable energy system. New technology tackling challenges in the area of domestic space heating and water heating will make significant contributions to the energy consumption,CO2 emission, and to improve the quality of life, because among all energy consumed by end users, ~45-47% is for domestic space heating and water heating accounts for another 40%. Among different storage technologies, thermal energy storage provides a unique approach for efficient and effective peak-shaving of both electricity and heat demand, efficient use of renewable energy from wind, tide and sun, and low grade waste heat, as well as distributed energy and backup energy systems. In Europe, it has been estimated that around 1.4 million GWh per year could be saved-and 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided by thermal energy storage. Despite the importance and huge potential, very limited research has been done in the area.

Phase Change Material (PCM) based technology has a great potential to provide a cost effective solution to the problem, if we can tackle the density and efficiency challenges and overcome the cost barrier. PCMs have an energy density 3-6 times higher than the use of water as a storage medium, and have the potential to compete with sensible heat storage materials such as MgO in terms of cost per unit kWh and is far more compact, and is cheaper than the electrochemical thermal storage. Thus, this bears significant national importance to the UK energy system, peak-shaving and quality of life, but composite PCMs for domestic heating is severely understudied.

This project, building on individual achievements in nanocomposites and in thermal storage research and adopting a multi-institutional and experimental-modelling approach, aims to develop new PCM-based nanomaterials, that are suitable for high energy density (6 times higher than existing technology), affordable and sustainable PCM-based composite thermal storage device applications. It primarily addresses the Materials and Materials Design aspect of this Energy Storage Challenge Call to provide high energy and power density. The project will also develop experimental and modelling Diagnostic Tools, in order to monitor and maximise the efficiency of the PCM composite deveice.

The well-organised investigators from five different research groups of three universities, will first tackle the fundamental PCM composite challenges to solve the low conductivity, thermal expanson and supercooling issues, then move on to investigate at module and system levels to assist validate and optimise the new PCM composites, to achieve optimal device thermal effiency over 92-95%, with >at lease 25% electricity bill saving, 40% weight reduction and 6000 cycle duration. Finally we will construct example domestic space heater to demonstrate the practical improvement of our materials, and we will deliver 10 kW high effiency, compact and low cost device prototypes for demonstration at the Nottingham Creative Homes.

Planned Impact

This project will use combined experimental and multilevel modelling approach to develop advanced PCM-based nanocomposites for TES for domestic space heating. The multidisciplinary approach will offer in-depth understandings towards new advanced PCM nanocomposites, as well as the cost-effective design and their reuse/recycle characteristics for domestic TES applications. The materials and methodology obtained in this project, can not only be applied for TES for domestic space heating, but also be adopted for other TES applications, either directly or combined with other waste heat or electricity, such as in CSP power plants, solar thermal panels, utilizing waste heat for process heat. This research will also help reduce the current thermal energy demand from fossil sources, peak-shave from existing electricity mains network, and facilitate within the UK a healthier and more sustainable energy system and low carbon energy market. Importantly, the technology to be developed will thus help to save our energy bills, improve our quality of life, fight Fuel-poverty and indirectly save lives.

Briefly, the following groups might benefit from this research:

--Academic communities working on Nanomaterials, Nanocomposites, Energy storage, Solar thermal, electrochemical, thermophisical, etc. areas. Both experimentalists and modelling expert could benefit directly from the research outcomes. These outcomes include: new scientific discoveries, understandings and methodologies of PCM-based nanocomposites; knowledge concerning the reuse and recycle characteristics of PCM-based nanocomposites; new understandings of TES device at various levels; and new knowledge on system diagnostics and control for optimal power/energy performance. This can be realised via four main routes: 1. Dissemination in Journals and at Conferences. 2. SUPERGEN Hub. 3. Academic network. 4. Professional Society event.

-- UK industry asscoaiated with PCM composite manufactuering, TES device manufacturing, demostic space and underfloor heating designers etc.
They will benefit from the new devices of high energy and high efficiency at low cost, to improve their competitiveness in market. The advanced PCM-based nanocomposite as end products could be used in areas well beyond the proposed heater, which could widening their production ranges. Manufacturing of cost-effective TES domestic heating device promotes the economic growth on the UK industry. New learning on the issues faced when integrating/peak-shaving electricity into domestic TES space heater, could help designers to produce more efficient solution for clients. These impacts will be realised thropugh engaging industry partners at different stages, at materials, module and system design and development stages, via visiting and project meetings.

--UK Energy policy makers. This outcome of the project will offer future technology options in TES towards decarbonisation of heat supply for domestic and commercial sectors, and can offer a broadened range of technologies for deployment. These impact will be achieved by engaging with stakeholders and policy makers, local and national councillors, as planned.

--Society. The gained knowledge will help support the role out of TES technologies in the UK that potentially contribute to a sustainable and low carbon society. The compact device can save energy bill, raise living standards, fight fuel-poverty and improve quality of life, even save lives. Also the appealing new technology can help public understand and support the development of new nanomaterials science and technology. We have planed these activities to achieve these impacts. 1. Engagement with schools for youngsters and general public at exhibition. 2. Demonstration event. 3. Internet and mobile social media.

-- The PRDAs and PhD etc. directly involved. They will receive critical training during the project, benefiting UK's future research capacity.


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Description ECF-2018-376, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship for the Researcher Lola Ola
Amount £110,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 08/2021