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An international collaboration will result in a prototype thermal energy storage system

An international collaboration will result in a prototype thermal energy storage system
Another outcome of the collaboration between VSB-TUO and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the NewHeatIntegrated project. This initiative focuses on advancements in thermal energy storage and involves a collaboration between experts from Fraunhofer ICT, Fraunhofer IWU, the University of Vaasa, BME, nollaE Oy, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (FEECS), and the Faculty of Civil Engineering at VSB-TUO.

In an interview, Jiří Koziorek, Head of the Department of Cybernetics and Biomedical Engineering at FEECS, reveals how this collaboration came about and what they aim to achieve with this project.

Can you introduce the NewHeatIntegrated project? What is its primary focus and mission?

The main objective of the project is to develop an innovative and cost-effective solution for Thermal Energy Storage (TES). The project centres around a storage concept that utilises switchable phase change materials (sPCM) within a specific temperature range, coupled with a specially designed heat exchanger. This concept allows us to achieve a high density of heat storage and to reduce energy losses during heat transfer. This then allows for the heat stored to cover the thermal needs of the specific building during peak heat demand periods. A crucial aspect of the research also involves a monitoring and control system for the thermal energy storage unit, with the future plan being to incorporate artificial intelligence. The aim of our research is to produce a modular and adaptable system applicable to both existing and new buildings.

Supported by the Clean Energy Transition Partnership (CET Partnership), the project has a duration of 30 months and brings together research and industrial partners from three countries - Germany, the Czech Republic and Finland.

Why did you choose this particular issue?

The project’s theme aligns with the European Union's long-term priorities towards carbon neutrality and energy self-sufficiency. Moreover, it builds on our long-term collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (Fraunhofer ICT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (Fraunhofer IWU). Our joint efforts have successfully addressed previous challenges, such as the Horizon 2020 project GeoUS - Geothermal Energy in Special Underground Structures, which included aspects of the thermal energy storage conundrum. Building upon this collaboration, the new project NewHeatIntegrated further develops the issue of thermal energy storage. The consortium for this project has been formed based on the connections established during the GeoUS project.

What roles do the individual partners play in the project?

Given the multidisciplinary nature of this research, the consortium encompasses a diverse range of expertise. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the project coordinator; Fraunhofer ICT focuses on the development and synthesis of materials for thermal energy storage; Fraunhofer IWU is responsible for the innovation of the storage design and the selection of materials for the construction. The task of managing the storage control system, sensors, and measurements falls under the domain of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, while the Faculty of Civil Engineering concentrates on heat flows within the storage unit and between this device and the building. Both faculties are also actively engaged in developing the demonstrator. The University of Vaasa contributes to the project by working on the sizing and optimisation of the thermal energy storage unit, energy management, and assessing the social acceptability of these technologies. Our industrial partner BME Dr. Golbs und Partner GmbH brings core technologies, manufacturing expertise, and market competencies to the project, while nollaE is tasked with overseeing the overall building energy concept, assessment, and optimisation.

How significant is the participation of the Ostrava scientists?

The involvement of the VSB-TUO team holds immense importance in the project, particularly concerning the development of the measurement and control system. Appropriate controls will greatly impact the overall performance of the storage device and its potential integration into technical building systems. The success of the control system is also related to finding the right sensors for the application, ensuring their proper placement, and managing data processing and transmission. The team's involvement is also vital in physical modelling the heat storage process and creating a digital twin of the storage solution. To validate the research findings, testing will be conducted on three demonstrators, with one situated on the campus of our university.

What obstacles do you expect in this process?

The primary challenge lies in identifying an appropriate innovative thermal energy storage solution and producing functional samples within a limited timeframe. With the project incorporating a ten-month test run, it necessitates the completion of all development and laboratory validation roughly by the 18th month from the project's initiation. Nevertheless, given the extensive collective experience of all partners in this field, we are optimistic that the implementation will proceed as scheduled.

The project received support through an international call from the Technology Agency of Czech Republic, and collaboration with a commercial entity is also in place. What practical impact can be anticipated?

The industrial partner that has the greatest potential to benefit from the results of the joint project is BME Dr. Golbs und Partner GmbH. With the objective of obtaining a prototype thermal energy storage unit by the project's conclusion, the company aims to have a product ready for production, positioning it for potential market utilisation. Thermal heat storage based on phase change materials is a valuable addition to renewable energy systems. It can effectively respond to surplus energy in the grid, store the energy, and use it later at the appropriate time.

As you mentioned earlier, the current project is built upon prior collaborations within the Horizon 2020 project. In what specific ways?

The Horizon 2020 project, GeoUS - Geothermal Energy in Special Underground Structures, significantly accelerated our international research collaboration. Serving as the first Horizon project that our team fully prepared and coordinated, the GeoUS project produced a large number of compelling results, including joint scientific publications and the establishment of new connections with foreign research institutes and companies. These newfound contacts and collaborations have sparked numerous ideas and subsequent project submissions. Examples include the ongoing NewHeatIntegrated project initiated in September 2023, as well as the upcoming project Green Urban Mobility EcoSystem (GUMES) scheduled to commence in February 2024, and the Proposal and project network for holistic and intelligent human-integrated manufacturing and handling concepts 4.0 to achieve future-oriented sustainability in production (Network 4.0) launched in May 2023.

The project has already been successfully initiated with a kick-off meeting; what were the key outcomes?

The kick-off meeting took place in November at Fraunhofer ICT in Pfinztal, Germany, and saw the participation of representatives from both our research and industrial partners. Despite the prevalence of online communication in today's era, the significance of fostering personal connections and engaging in in-depth discussions at the project's inception cannot be overstated. The outcome of the kick-off meeting is a well-defined roadmap outlining the collaborative path forward for each partner.

Text: Martina Šaradínová, PR specialist for R&D

Photo: JK archive

Created: 17. 1. 2024
Category:  News
Department: 9110 - Office of Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation