Transitioning toward a sustainable future

ELENA PALOMO DEL BARRIO

ELENA PALOMO DEL BARRIO

SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR

The group is dedicated to the study of phase change materials (PCMs) as well as critical phenomena for the benefit of thermal energy storage (TES) and thermal management applications. This involves new materials design and synthesis, full characterization, materials optimization, and life-time analysis. The final goal of the group is to deliver attractive solutions for the industry by overcoming material science challenges. Some of the active topics of the group include:

  • Smart external-stimuli responsive PCMs. Phase transitions in PCMs for TES are determined by temperature. However, designing PCMs so that the phase transitions can also be driven by other types of external stimuli (e.g., electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, mechanical stimuli) is of great interest because this provides the PCM with additional functionalities (e.g., heat transportation, heat pumping) and helps to solve some of the current problems of PCMs (e.g., subcooling, poor heat transfer ability). The development of such kind of smart PCMs is among the interests of the group.
  • Advanced PCM-based materials. Despite many advantages of PCMs like high energy density and near isothermal charge-discharge, the leakage problem is a severe engineering limitation. For this reason, the development of shape-stabilized PCMs by advanced encapsulation, coating, and impregnation methods, as well as exploration of solid-solid phase transitions, are among the main activities of the group. Additionally, the group researches nano-PCMs where small quantities of nano-additives can considerably affect relevant properties of PCMs such as temperature and enthalpy of phase transition, specific heat, thermal conductivity, hysteresis, etc.
  • Near-critical phenomena. Fluids near their critical point (NC-fluids: near-critical fluids) possess extraordinary properties. For example, the specific heat of such fluids tends to infinity, which has the potential of a breakthrough in the thermal energy storage area. Such near-critical fluids are investigated both from a fundamental and from a practical point of view. Achieving the “a priori” most interesting thermodynamic path (heating/cooling at constant pressure) is a significant challenge, which is addressed by coupling the NC-fluid with suitable molecular springs.

Research Lines

Our group collaborates with other groups in the development of varied solutions in the following lines of research: