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MONODRAUGHT What Is Cool-Phase?

Collaborating with The University of Nottingham, Ciba (BASF) Ltd, and the Carbon Trust, Monodraught has created an extremely low energy, intelligent passive cooling and heat recovery system for use in commercial, academic and healthcare environments. In this article Cool-phase product development manager Paul Aitchison, discusses the technology and the application.

Monodraught developed the Cool-phase system to provide powered fresh air ventilation with the added capability of storing and discharging large amounts of latent thermal energy. The system uses a micro-encapsulated phase change material (PCM) slurry, which provides 4kWh of thermal storage and supplies around 1kW of cooling at any one time. All this is achieved using a fraction of the power required to run traditional air conditioning (AC) systems, reducing carbon emissions and the detrimental effects usually associated with AC.

Phase change materials have high heat of fusion, which provides large amounts of latent heat when changing state (phase). This is typically solid to liquid and vice versa, but can also be achieved with solid to solid, solid gas and liquid gas. Initially salt hydrates were used as the Cool-phase PCM but we found that, due to repeated cycles of phase, after only 2 – 3 years the material becomes ineffective. Ciba Ltd provided the solution, with a PCM that has a life span of approximately 10 years.

The material is supplied as a slurry, so the PCM can be stored more readily and used when required. In the Cool-phase application it consists of a wax held within a robust polymer shell. This has an extremely large storage capacity (a 1cm thick layer of PCM is equivalent to a 15cm thick layer of concrete). The same technology can also be used to provide thermal mass in buildings. For example, by applying a layer of PCM to plasterboard, a metal-frame building can achieve the same thermal mass as a building constructed using traditional masonry techniques. This not only reduces construction time, but also reduces cost both during and after construction.

How is Monodraught putting PCM to work?
Cool-phase operates, fully automatically, under three conditions: fresh air, cooling and heat recovery. Under cooling conditions PCM is used to absorb heat from the air. In heat recovery mode it tempers incoming fresh air.

Depending on operating conditions, the system will try to increase or decrease the temperature of the air using energy taken from the surrounding environment. However, an integrated CO2 sensor will override the control strategy and provide fresh air intake if levels exceed 1200ppm.

In cooling mode, cold night time air is used to charge the PCM between 10pm and 6am. An increased flow rate from the fans draws cold air across the heat exchangers cooling the PCM, which is then stored in an insulated tank. During the daytime, the system draws fresh air into the space until the external temperature exceeds 23°C, when an external damper is closed and air is recirculated within the space. PCM is then pumped back through the system and air passing through the heat exchangers is cooled. Inversely, under heat recovery mode, the PCM is pumped through the system during the day, absorbing heat from the space, which is returned to the space the following day, tempering incoming fresh air.

What are the differences between Cool-phase and AC?
It is generally acknowledged that air-conditioning has a number of detrimental effects on the environment, the major factor being the power consumption required to operate. Typically AC requires kilowatts of power to run. Refrigerants used are extremely hazardous to the environment. Older types deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming, and even newer HFC’s have over 1000 times the global warming potential of CO2.

The advantages of PCM for Cool-phase are its low power consumption (approximately 40W), its recyclability (it is simply composted at the end of its life) and the obvious health benefits.

And one other important difference – air-conditioning is a misnomer because typically, no conditioning is provided! Cool-phase however, provides fresh air and, with its inbuilt CO2 control, will maintain air quality at all times, providing low CO2 levels that are proven to increase concentration and well being.

The next stage… True zero carbon cooling and heat recovery
Cool-phase was designed from the outset to run on DC power; and although only a small amount is required it is still powered by mains electricity. Monodraught is therefore developing a solar powered version, creating a true zero-carbon product for both commercial and domestic markets.


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