AllCell and University of Illinois Sign Agreement for Geothermal Thermal Storage Technology for Smart Grid Applications

April 03, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

AllCell Technologies LLC signed a License Option Agreement with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to license technology developed by the University for thermal storage for air conditioning and heating using geothermal heat pumps. The option provides AllCell with the exclusive right to negotiate an exclusive license to UIC intellectual property covering the use of phase change materials (PCM) and smart grid technology to optimize the use of geothermal heating and cooling systems. AllCell currently holds the rights to several patents covering the use of phase change materials for thermal management of batteries and fuel cells, and has already begun technical collaboration with the University of Illinois on this expansion of the company’s proprietary technology.

The University’s patent application covers the use of sophisticated algorithms to optimize the use of thermal storage to minimize heating and cooling energy usage and cost. The technology is designed to work in conjunction with geothermal heat pumps, which are systems that pump heat to or from the ground by taking advantage of the moderate temperatures found underground. In buildings served by geothermal heat pumps, the new technology will examine forecasted weather, electricity prices, and building usage to calculate when it is most cost effective to operate the system. For example, if electricity prices will be cheap at night in the summer before they shoot up during a hot day, the heat pump will run at night to "store cold" using phase change materials, and will then release that cold into the building during the day when electricity is expensive.

There are several important benefits to such a system. Most obviously, money is saved by running the system when electricity is inexpensive, storing the heat or cold so that the system does not need to operate at peak electricity prices. Less obvious is the fact that building heating and cooling systems traditionally have been sized to ensure comfort during the hottest and coldest days of the year. Utilizing thermal storage allows building designers to size systems for average loads rather than for the hottest or coldest day of the year, cutting out heating and cooling capacity that typically goes unused the vast majority of the time. By reducing peak electricity consumption, this new technology will become a useful piece of smart grid systems.

For AllCell, thermal storage applications for building heating and cooling are a perfect use for the waste and scrap PCM generated by the company’s lithium-ion battery pack assembly process. By utilizing waste and scrap material from the production of one product for the production of a second product, AllCell will be able to lower the costs of both products while simultaneously improving the environmental sustainability of their operations.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.