Product Review

BioPCM: Finally, a Low-Cost, Practical Phase-Change Material

I can remember 30 years ago receiving samples of the latest, greatest phase-change material. As I recall, it was a eutectic salt product that came packaged in sealed, black cans, ready for installation in passive solar buildings. While a great idea, these products were expensive and didn’t hold up well. Phase Change Energy Solutions appears to be changing those equations with its biobased, biodegradable BioPCM mats.

Phase-change materials (PCMs) use a quirk of physics to aid in thermal storage. When you warm up a solid material (like ice), its temperature rises steadily until it nears the melting point. At that point, the temperature remains roughly the same as the material continues to absorb heat; the process of changing phase from solid to liquid absorbs a lot of energy, called latent heat. Once the material is entirely melted, its temperature resumes rising. When you cool down and freeze a liquid, the same process happens in reverse, releasing stored energy.

Published December 27, 2011