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Taking the heat: Thermal control of the automotive interior with phase change material

Industry News, News | October 18, 2016 | By:

In order to reduce and stabilize the interior temperature while driving a car, many models are equipped with air-conditioning systems; however providing a sufficient cooling capacity requires a lot of energy. Energy can be saved and the thermal comfort inside a passenger compartment can be enhanced substantially by the use of new textile composite materials with unique thermo-regulating properties developed by the Colorado-based company Textile Testing & Innovation LLC.

According to Dr. Barbara Pause, this phase change material (PCM) absorbs or releases a large amount of “latent heat” when it melts or crystallizes in a material-specific temperature range. The temperature of the PCM remains constant during the entire phase change process.

Thermal effects provided by PCM include:

  • Cooling effect by absorbing latent heat
  • Heating effect by releasing latent heat
  • Thermo-regulating effect by an alternating absorption and release of latent heat

Phase change materials are either integrated into adhesives, which bond the cover materials of headliner and dashboard products to their backing materials, or coated onto the backside of the preliminary cover material.

Features of PCM-based seat cooling systems offer an efficient cooling system; fast response and long-lasting cooling effect; low cost; minor change in seat configuration; and does not require an external energy supply. Additionally, the advantages of PCM applications in auto interiors include an effective thermal-control solution; improvement in the thermo-physiological seating comfort; energy savings for reduced CO2 emissions; and delayed material aging.

Phase change material technology applied to auto interiors is durable over the lifecycle of the vehicle and maintenance free, and it does not requite any external energy supply.

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