Phase changing technology applies to phase changing materials (PCMs), used to regulate energy levels in a building. They are not new; in fact the first documented PCM was in 1948 in Massachusetts by Dr Maria Telkes. She wanted a passive solar heated house.
Phase changing materials have huge potential to reduce energy consumption, by up to 30%. As they develop more high tech forms, this percentage could no doubt rise. But for some reason PCMs currently have not gone mainstream. With the potential that they have, I find this bizarre and I would like to encourage architects and designers to make more use of them.
Phase changing materials are classified as latent storage because they have the ability to turn from solid to liquid, and from liquid to solid. ‘The energy storage and release properties of phase-change materials allow their use to improve the thermal performance and energy consumption of a lightweight structure.’
To meet building regulations, new builds must now be highly insulated. This however poses the great threat of them overheating in summer months. Phase changing materials therefore perfectly overcome this problem, regulating the temperature.
PCMs are also much lighter than thermally big materials and, relative to this, store large amounts of heat per volume. They are also easy to install. This means it is also easy to refurbish a building with a lightweight structure so that the thermal and energy efficiency improves.
Ecologically, we must become much more aware of the planet, especially since our population is rapidly climbing, so the least amount of natural resources we use the better for the planet. Phase changing materials control us using unnecessary energy.
For our health and comfort, regulating conditions in the environment seems like a very sensible way to live, particularly for the elderly and very young, who are more susceptible to changes in temperature.
Financially it is clear that the less money spent on energy needs, the more is left so you can accumulate other things. PCMs may be more expensive than lightweight insulation materials but the lightweight materials do not have the potential that PCMs have. The latter cannot reduce the energy needed for heating and cooling a building.
Phase changing materials bridge an important gap between when energy is available and when it is needed. The material therefore has huge potential to improve the quality of the space, whilst regulating the temperature. PCMs, therefore, reduce the amount of extra energy that would previously have been used to heat and cool the space. They add huge value in many aspects to our physical, economic, social and environmental lives. If truly embraced, as I believe it should be, it will be another great technical advance in architecture and interior design and significantly help to reduce climate change.
ThermaCool panels incorporate the latest PCM to provide a complete construction board for lightweight wall and ceiling systems that enhance the thermal comfort and indoor air quality of a room.
Energainfrom DuPont is a board material of PCM sandwiched between 2 layers of Aluminium for application behind dry wall board.
Smartboardfrom BASF, marketed by Knauf, is a dry-line gypsum based board impregnated with BASF’s Micronal® PCM, of paraffin droplets micro encapsulated in a non-formaldehyde capsule.