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Polymers for thermal storage systems

August 2015

geba Kunststofftechnik GmbH & Co. KG is taking part in the FFG-sponsored „StoreITup-IF” project for the research and development of thermal storage systems. Under the project management of the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), the declared objective of the project is to develop an economical latent heat storage system with polymer-based phase change materials (PCMs) with a temperature range between 80 and 400 degrees. These thermal storage systems, in comparison to traditional storage systems, have the benefit of being able to store latent energy as well as sensitive energy which results in a higher energy density. The latent energy stores the enthalpy which occurs in the material during the physical phase change process without the temperature of the changed material altering significantly. Salts and paraffin oils are currently the most commonly used phase change materials. Salts have the disadvantage of being corrosive and/or expensive, while paraffin oils can only be deployed at lower temperatures, meaning that they are unsuitable for many industrial applications.

Test winner among thermally conductive polymers

With its thermally conductive polymers, geba prevailed over 14 renowned European plastics producers in the preliminary “StoreITup!” project. The benefits of thermally conductive plastics include the ease with which they can be formed, the price and the weight. The materials are therefore ideal as PCMs.


AIT’s key finding during the preliminary project, other than the selection of the project partner, was the identification of six polymer grades which can be considered for use in a heat storage system. Furthermore, in the first test it was proven that the efficiency of the PCMs could be increased by the inclusion of additives.

Development and industrial scale production of optimized polymer PCMs

The next step in the current project is the optimisation of the thermally conductive plastics for a heat storage system. This focuses on areas such as the enhancement of the thermal conductivity, the increasing of the storage density, the minimizing of volume change during phase transitions, as well as long-term stability and reproducibility. geba will undertake the industrial production of the polymers for the PCM storage systems, which will be jointly developed by the University of Leoben, geba and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT). The company from St. Veit will call on many years of experience as a compounder of high-quality technical plastics, high-performance plastics and special compounds.


Application tests in plastic and metal sectors

The latent heat storage system developed during the StoreITup-IF- project is intended to be used by the plastic and metal sectors to capture waste heat which is generated during the production process, and store it for use in the factory at a later date. The first prototypes will be produced and tested under normal conditions by geba in St. Veit and by Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen (LKR). According to the calculations of AIT, by storing 10% of the national usable waste heat the market potential in Austria alone is estimated to be 4,5-7,5 billion Euros. Thermal storage systems offer the only possibility to feed large volumes of renewable energy into the existing heating networks while levelling out peaks in consumption and bridging the energy demands in periods of lower production (for example, after dark). AIT estimates the market potential for solar process heat at between 39 and 65 billion Euros.

Project participants

In addition to AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, the University of Leoben and geba, technosert electronic GmbH, LKR Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen GmbH, Gruber & Kaja Tech Metals GmbH, CTB Automatisierungstechnik GmbH and Austria Solar Innovation Center are partaking in the project that will be completed in March 2018.

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