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Outlook

Intensive research work over the last two decades has identified many phase change materials that are suitable for use in latent heat storage. More than one hundred materials cover the temperature range of approximately –40 °C to about 130 °C and are available on the market; some of these materials have already been successfully used for more than 10 years now in various applications. The encapsulation techniques used here – micro- and macro-encapsulation – represent the state-of-the-art technology. There is also a recognised quality label from RAL for these products.

Sufficient, reliable experience values have not been available up to now for the various applications (solar energy, biomass use, cogeneration), meaning that the benefits of latent heat storage devices must be demonstrated in detail for each particular case. However, the results of a number of demonstration projects have already shown that significant energy savings and higher efficiencies can be achieved if sizing and design is carried out appropriately. Building materials that use micro-encapsulated PCMs are now available in a wide range of forms. Examples include gypsum plaster, gypsum boards, and composite materials with PCMs. These products were first installed in real buildings in 2004. Gypsum plasterboards are already being commercially produced and used on a large scale. Initial demonstration projects are now under way in the area of liquid storage media (PCSs), but further optimisation work and, above all, investigations regarding long-term stability are necessary in order to achieve market-ready products. Recognised planning tools and simulation models are making a significant contribution to better preparation and acceptance of these materials, as the advantages of these materials can be quantified and demonstrated.

Alongside material-related research and development, it will also be important in the coming years to gather further experience from demonstration projects and to evaluate this experience. The first pilot applications of PCM building materials were carried out as early as 2004, and since then energy savings and improved comfort have been demonstrated. For this reason, it is to be expected that these materials will become accepted as state of the art within a few years. The significant increases in energy costs worldwide, including in the USA, have led to the start-up of new companies in this market sector in recent times.

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