Phase-change materials, systems and applications for low- and medium-temperature thermal energy storage

Abstract

Determining the ideal size of compact thermal energy storage containers has been an issue for many building designers due to the difficulty of determining the transient performance of the thermal storage systems. Research and development of compact thermal energy storage systems has been ongoing for more than 80 years with phase change materials (PCMs) used to replace conventional water based thermal stores. PCMs have the potential to store larger amounts of energy when compared to water-based thermal stores over a narrow temperature range, providing a greater thermal storage capacity for the same available volume. This research was undertaken to investigate theoretically and experimentally the thermal behaviour of various PCMs and the overall decarbonisation potential when integrated into current heating and cooling systems. The overall aim was to develop algorithms that could determine optimal and cost effective compact thermal storage geometries and their system integration into the various heating and cooling applications studied. Three operating temperatures were selected based on the application: office space cooling (10 to 24∘^\circC), residential domestic hot water and space heating (40 to 65∘^\circC) and district heating (55 to 80∘^\circC). The algorithms developed predict the energy performance and CO2CO_2 emissions reduction for each application with a latent heat thermal storage system compared to a reference (current system design) case in each application. Previous research has focused on the melting behaviour of the PCM within a specific geometry, modelling the heat transfer fluid (HTF) in a separate analysis. The algorithms developed focus on the modelling of these 2 elements simultaneously within the respective application. This provided a useful tool to evaluate the thermal performance of each storage technology compared to the reference case in each application studied. The levelized costs of energy (LCOE) in each application were compared. It was found that in all cases studied, the latent heat thermal energy storage system is an expensive solution, compared to the reference case in each application (72\% more expensive in the office space cooling study, 69\% more expensive in the domestic hot water and space heating study and 9\% more expensive in the district heating study); although the obtained emission reductions are considerable (36\% by shifting daily cooling loads, 57\% by shifting domestic hot water and space heating loads and 11\% by utilizing industrial waste heat via a compact portable thermal store). Further integration of renewable energy sources and the electrification of current heating and cooling applications with the possibility of shifting heating and cooling loads into periods with lower carbon emissions can significantly contribute to meet the UK s 80\% carbon emissions reduction targets by 2050

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