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How does PCM work and why is it useful?

More and more we hear about Phase Change Materials, but most people don’t really know what these materials are made of and how useful they can be. You have certainly already used a portable isothermal bag when going to the beach to keep your food and drinks cool. Well, no surprise, if you’ve done this, then you’ve probably used a Phase Change Material without even knowing it.

In short, PCM is described as a substance that releases and absorbs energy during phase transition to provide useful heating and cooling. Typically, during this phase, the material state will pass from a liquid to solid stage and vice-versa. PCM’s can be made of 3 different materials; water-based, salt hydrated and organic material based, which will provide a different advantage and usability depending on the substance. A solid PCM absorbs a large amount of heat during the melting process and prevents overheating. Whereas a PCM in its liquid phase can prevent supercooling, emitting thermal energy during solidification and prevents a quick temperature drop from happening.

PCMs are gaining more attention these days, because of their technology and use for commercial purposes. Commonly, PCM’s are applied in thermal energy systems due to their durability and stability, They have been widely used in different latent heat storage systems, such as solar energy, building energy conservation and cold chain supply chain. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of heat energy: sensible and latent. Most traditional systems use sensible heat to alter the temperature of a substance. However, PCM’s use both kinds of energies, resulting in a longer thermal duration.

Why are Phase Change Materials so interesting you may ask? Well the beauty of this material is the capability it has to store heat or cold, similarly to energy batteries with power saving. PCMs can make the thermal storage temperature range more narrow, which means lower heat losses. Because the Solid-to-liquid or liquid-to-solid occur at nearly the same temperature, it is possible to store large amounts of thermal energy whether it’s cold or hot flows.

Overall, the application of PCMs, specifically in the cold chain industry can help reduce the energy consumption and avoid wasting excess energy. For instance, the cold chain transportation is an important means to ensure drugs and food safety. PCM transport solutions are suitable for a vast number of thermo-sensitive products, whether it is for blood products, organs, vaccines, stem cells, proteins and antibodies and even food! Phase Change Material is an evolving technology that is beneficial in reducing temperature fluctuations and energy consumption. It’s a substance that can help reduce peaks in refrigeration demand and store temperatures at low operation cost. Moreover, it can fulfill temperature emergencies and mismatches between energy supply and the user demand. PCM can make an important contribution to an uninterrupted cold chain of pharmaceuticals sensitive equipment and products.

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