Not too long ago, it would have been sci-fi, but “phase change” materials are making their way to the U.S.: ThermalCORE, a new type of dry-wall panel created by National Gypsum and BASF, promises to help cut cooling costs with tiny little wax molecules that melt by day and harden by night.
Your typical dry wall is just a sheet of plaster, coated in paper-pulp; it’s used in almost every building that goes up today because it’s cheap and easy to install. But it’s a terrible insulator–meaning that we have to heat and cool our buildings even more to make up. By contrast, according to Tech Review, the plaster in ThermalCORE is embedded with microscopic beads of wax that are encased in plastic shells. (Pictured at left.) During the day, the wax melts and absorbs heat–thus helping cool a room. By night, the wax hardens and releases that heat, warming the room back up.
Similar technologies at use in Europe have been show to cut air conditioning costs by nearly 20%; ThermalCORE is expected to pay back a $4,800 investment–enough for installation in a typical family home–in just five years. The product is undergoing a full year of testing to formulate variations suited to different climates, and to measure its effect on overall building efficiency.
BASF is also looking into an even wilder application: They’re experimenting with ways to run AC over these sorts of phase change materials at night–when electricity is cheaper and more efficient to produce–so that they can create a greater cooling effect during the day.
[Read more at Tech Review]