Phase Change Materials (PCMs) are substances with a high heat of fusion. Melting and solidifying at a specific temperature, is capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy. Heat is absorbed or released when the material changes from solid to liquid and vice versa. Therefore, Phase Change Materials are classified as latent heat storage units.
These products are ideal for thermal management solutions. Because of they change from one phase to another, releasing thermal energy.
The properties of Phase Change Materials can be used in different ways.
- As thermal energy storage: heat or coolness can be stored from one period in time and used at a different location or later date.
- Insulation or thermal barriers: as for example in temperature controlled transport.
The most effective, simplest and cheapest material for phase change material is water/ice. But, unfortunately, the freezing temperature of water (0ºC) makes it unsuitable for most energy storage applications.
For this reason, different materials have been developed to offer products that freeze and melt at temperatures from the cryogenic range to several hundred degrees centigrade.
Categories of Phase Change Materials
Phase Change Materials can be arranged in three categories: eutectics, salt hydrates, and organic materials.
- Eutectics: solutions of salts in water with a phase change temperature below 0°C (32°F).
- Salt hydrates are specific salts that are able to incorporate water of crystallization during their freezing process and tend to change phase above 0°C (32°F).
- Organic materials: polymers with long chain molecules composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen. Mostly change phase above 0°C (32°F). Examples of these are waxes, oils, fatty acids and polygycols.
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