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Thermal Conductivity Enhancement of Phase Change Materials for Thermal Energy Storage: A Review

Journal Name: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Volume: 15
Issue: 1
Page: 24-46
Year: 2011

List of Authors:
Liwu Fan, Jay M. Khodadadi


A review of experimental/computational studies to enhance the thermal conductivity of phase change materials (PCM) that were conducted over many decades is presented. Thermal management of electronics for aeronautics and space exploration appears to be the original intended application, with later extension to storage of thermal energy for solar thermal applications. The present review will focus on studies that concern with positioning of fixed, stationary high conductivity inserts/structure. Copper, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel and carbon fiber in various forms (fins, honeycomb, wool, brush, etc.) were generally utilized as the materials of the thermal conductivity promoters. The reviewed research studies covered a variety of PCM, operating conditions, heat exchange and thermal energy storage arrangements. The energy storage vessels included isolated thermal storage units (rectangular boxes, cylindrical and annular tubes and spheres) and containers that transferred heat to a moving fluid medium passing through it. A few studies have focused on the marked role of flow regimes that are formed due to the presence of thermally unstable fluid layers that in turn give rise to greater convective mixing and thus expedited melting of PCM. In general, it can be stated that due to utilization of fixed high conductivity inserts/structures, the conducting pathways linking the hot and cold ends must be minimized.