A phase change material
) is a substance with a high heat of fusion
which, melting and solidifying at a certain temperature, is capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy. Heat is absorbed or released when the material changes from solid to liquid and vice versa; thus, PCMs are classified as latent heat
storage (LHS) units.
Characteristics and classification
PCMs latent heat storage can be achieved through solid-solid, solid-liquid, solid-gas and liquid-gas phase change. However, the only phase change used for PCMs is the solid-liquid change. Liquid-gas phase changes are not practical for use as thermal storage due to the large volumes or high pressures required to store the materials when in their gas phase. Liquid-gas transitions do have a higher heat of transformation than solid-liquid transitions. Solid-solid phase changes are typically very slow and have a rather low heat of transformation.
Initially, the solid-liquid PCMs behave like sensible heat
storage (SHS) materials; their temperature rises as they absorb heat. Unlike conventional SHS, however, when PCMs reach the temperature at which they change phase (their melting temperature) they absorb large amounts of heat at an almost constant temperature. The PCM continues to absorb heat without a significant rise in temperature until all the material is transformed to the liquid phase. When the ambient temperature around a liquid material falls, the PCM solidifies, releasing its stored latent heat. A... Read More