Thermal Energy Storage, Air-conditioning, Phase-change Materials, Graphite-PCM Composites
Thermal energy storage (TES) is a promising solution to store and dispatch energy and shave peak electric load, reducing the operational cost of HVAC systems. We present results of a TES system using phase-change materials (PCM) integrated with an air conditioner. The proposed system uses an organic PCM (tetradecane) encapsulated within compressed expanded natural graphite foams referred to as phase-change composite. The graphite foam encapsulates the PCM eliminating the need for expensive storage vessels, reduces installation costs, and provides higher thermal conductivity that can lead to faster charge/discharge rates. Two serpentines, multi-pass circuits, operating as a heat source and a sink, exchange heat to and from the phase-change composite. These two circuits are embedded in multiple slabs of this material. The “charge” circuit contains the refrigerant that is directly coupled to a vapor compression system, and the “discharge” circuit removes heat from an airstream and releases it into the PCM composite through a water-glycol liquid coupling. This configuration allows for multiple modes of operation depending on the state of charge of the thermal energy storage module, the building air-conditioning load, and the current electricity and demand charges. This flexible operation allows variable air volume capacity control without the need to have a variable capacity refrigeration system. We developed a 21 kW-hr (6 RT-hr) prototype TES system coupled with a commercial air-conditioner to characterize the component-and system-level performance.