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Cold chain energy storage material trialled in China

A major rolling stock company in China has teamed up with the University of Birmingham to develop an energy efficient alternative to mechanical cooling of food containers

A partnership between the University of Birmingham and Chinese railway rolling stock company CRRC Shijiazhuang has developed and completed tests on a truck-to-train container cooling solution that works by storing energy.

The new solution, which is claimed to be a world first by developers, makes use of new phase change material (PCM) that can store and release cold energy.  Scientists working on the project have claimed that cooling functions can be maintained for a period of up to 120 hours and maintain temperatures of between 5 to 12 deg C within a container once it is “charged”.

Commercial trials of the technology have now been completed that saw the product used to cool containers holding actual goods across 35,000km of road and 1000 kilometres of rail transport. The trial was conducted in different climate zones, the developers added.

A joint statement on the new technology said a number of Chinese logistics groups had shown interest in the PCM solution that is being pushed as a more stable means of managing container temperature over mechanical alternatives.

Researchers have cited its removal of a need for a power supply during transportation, while still allowing for real time remote monitoring of temperatures of goods.

Professor Yulong Ding, director of the Birmingham Energy Storage Centre at the university, said that energy storage was one of the most important focuses of the institution’s current research.

He said, “We have developed a productive collaboration with CRRC Shijiazhuang and this innovative technology marks the beginning of developing an efficient and economic rail and road freight cold chain.”

“We are proud to contribute to the development of safe and clean low carbon energy technologies in China and beyond, which will ultimately help us to reduce the energy burden on our planet and tackle climate change.”

The University of Birmingham has in recent years been directly involved with a global clean cold focus looking at new ways of cooling around the world that focuses on more holistic solutions that look at policy and funding initiatives as well as technological developments

Professor Ding said that the PCM product could serve as one potential option for a lower carbon cold chain both in China and a number of other markets.

He added that an anticipated rise in demand for cooling solutions in a cold chain sector that is already a significant contributor of pollution has required new approaches in policy and cooling technology.

Professor Ding added, “Without ambitious intervention, research shows that energy demand from cooling could increase five-fold by 2050, putting an increased pressure on global energy resources,” said Professor Ding.

“How the world meets its demand for cooling could have a major impact on climate change and air pollution.”

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