The phase change cooling experimental facility is designed to study the fluid mechanics and heat transfer in a wide variety of phase change materials. The PCM is typically contained within a sealed container (module) located adjacent to the heat source. The PCM can melt as it absorbs heat and then re-solidify at the end of a power cycle within this container module.
In some cases embedded metallic or carbon foams are used to facilitate the heat penetration from the module walls into the contained PCM by providing a heat flow path to the module center and thus ensuring effective heat absorption through an even melt process. A constant flux is applied to the bottom surface using a resistance heater. The top surface of the cube is an isothermal cold plate maintained at 5˚C using a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze supplied from a constant temperature bath.
The entire cube is insulated from the environment using fiberglass insulation. In some cases, such as in energy efficient phase change enhanced building materials, the PCM is shape stabilized and the containers are not necessary as the PCM keeps it shape throughout the heating process. The thermal response of the materials and the progression of the melt front is tracked using a temperature measurements and a National Instruments modular compactDAQ.
This test rig has been used recently to test new nano-enhanced phase change materials for thermal management of electronics and for solar energy storage and for shape-stabilized PCMs for energy efficient building materials.