This initiative, which has already aroused the interest of companies such as Cegasa, Gamesa Electric, Iberdrola and Ingeteam, will make it possible to enhance the technical performance of industrial processes and products such as batteries for electric vehicles, photovoltaic panels, semiconductors and power transformers.

CIC energiGUNE, the Basque research center of reference in electrochemical and thermal energy storage, has launched the ThermLab initiative to provide Basque industry with direct access to the most advanced infrastructure for thermal analysis and testing, as well as the collaboration of a team of world-class researchers in this area. The initiative is designed to enable companies to improve their competitiveness thanks to the advantages derived from deploying new innovative thermal management concepts in their products and industrial processes. Companies such as Alkargo, Cegasa, Ferchau, Gamesa Electric, Giroa, Iberdrola, Idom, Ingeteam and Zigor have already expressed interest in this initiative.

The objective of ThermLab, a project funded by the Department of Economic Development of the Basque Government through the Directorate of Industry, is to become an effective test-bed to combat the main problems arising from poor thermal management, especially the reduction of technical performance and the useful life of products. At the same time, it aims to provide Basque industry with a tool for monitoring and experimenting with new materials and technologies, one that will enable incremental innovation based on new scientific discoveries in a safe and facilitating environment.

In this way, companies will be able to integrate disruptive knowledge and validate advanced technology for thermal management through tests on an industrially relevant scale, before definitively incorporating such concepts into marketable developments. Moreover, ThermLab opens the door to the use of surplus heat, which can be managed as an important source of energy for use on demand, and also contributes to reducing the environmental impact of production process, since efficient management reduces costs and C02 emissions.

ThermLab CIC energiGUNE

The importance of this type of action is supported by development forecasts worldwide. According to last year´s Research & Markets report, the market for thermal management technologies is expected to reach $15.86 billion by 2024.

Specifically, thermal management is a critical factor to be addressed in sectors such as heat production for domestic and industrial consumption, thermal management systems for batteries, large-scale thermal storage systems, heating and cooling systems for electric vehicles, cooling systems for power electronics converters and for electrical enclosures and panels, transformers and transformer centres, cooling systems for renewables: wind and photovoltaic, industrial thermal machines and heat pumps, and hybridisation between areas of specialisation.

In this sense, some of the potential of advanced thermal management has already been developed in projects such as the recently completed pilot plant in Iresen (Morocco), taken forward in collaboration with CIC energiGUNE, which can store 1MW during the day to be consumed during night-time peak demand periods, 130 MWh of energy in a week.

An important step forward for Basque Industry

The Thermlab initiative has already attracted considerable interest from Basque companies, which demonstrates the need the Basque industrial fabric has for a solution that will enable it to take a differential step forward in terms of disruptive knowledge. This CIC energiGUNE-driven initiative will provide Basque industry with access to expert knowledge and appropriate infrastructures for thermal analysis and testing, both of which are required to introduce new products and services to improve competitiveness in a global market, where technological change can drive a company out of the market.

In short, ThermLab represents a qualitative and differential step forward, bringing together cross-cutting lines of technology of interest to several areas and helping companies to identify and focus on new business opportunities, both for large corporations and for SMEs which are less able to commit resources to new approaches. Furthermore, the initiative has direct links to the area of Advanced Manufacturing, digital transformation within the framework of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, IoT and ecological transformation, among other concepts.

Finally, ThermLab will enable industry to progress from ideas of medium TRL, prior to industrialisation, to marketable levels from which they can generate incremental innovation in a time and resource-efficient manner.