SBIR Phase I: Inorganic Phase Change Materials Embedded in Closed-Cell Foams

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

CoolComposites
74 Bacon St #2
Waltham, MA 02451
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will result in the development of an additive for spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation that absorbs heat on warm days, reducing cooling needs and lowering construction and operational energy costs. The additive consists of cheap raw materials, and the company is designing a synthesis process that will minimize production complexity and costs. The resulting insulation additive composite will perform up to 40% more effectively than existing SPF. Thus, in hot climates, the amount of insulation needed can be reduced, resulting in zero-day payback for customers. This upends the current economics of PCM products, which ordinarily require a substantial upfront investment and a long payback period. Furthermore, the adoption of these additives will lower the electricity needed to cool the building, shrinking its environmental footprint. In addition, the composite will be applied during construction in the same way as SPF, reducing barriers to adoption. The total North American market for insulation is $11 billion per year. SPF makes up 9%, or $990 million, of this market, and is growing by 5% per year. The intellectual merit of this project lies in the use of inexpensive inorganic phase-change materials (PCMs) in the insulation additive, and the drop-in nature of the additive. Most PCM-enhanced building materials on the market use organic PCMs, which although easy to process, are expensive and flammable. In addition, the application of these materials is incompatible with existing construction processes. In contrast, the product to be developed in this effort uses cheaper inorganic PCMs that are flame retardant, and the additive will be easily applied during construction as a composite with SPF insulation. Inorganic PCMs usually suffer from a lack of thermal reversibility, meaning that they cannot cycle daily and would not be useful as a building material. However, we have developed an innovative processing method that creates small particles that are thermally reversible. The company's current research focuses on mixing the additive into polyurethane foam in a drop-in process, using the hydrophobic foam as protection for the additive from leakage and atmospheric water vapor that may degrade the additive. By working with spray foam manufacturers, the team will adjust properties of the additive to ensure compatibility with SPF and its precursors, and a long lifespan for the resulting composite.