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The current state of research pertaining to phase change materials (PCMs) that are integrated with metal foam is the subject of investigation.

The issue of global warming induced by CO2 emissions has become a pressing concern that requires immediate attention. The efficient implementation of renewable energy sources is widely regarded as a promising solution to both the global warming crisis and the energy crisis. However, the majority of renewable energy sources are intermittent and unstable. Consequently, thermal energy storage techniques have garnered significant attention, particularly in the context of renewable energy applications such as solar energy. Among these techniques, latent heat storage utilizing phase-change materials (PCMs) is particularly attractive due to its ability to reduce temperature variability (thermal inertia) and provide high thermal energy storage density.


Generally, various phase change materials (PCMs) can be classified into two primary groups based on their compositions, namely organic and inorganic PCMs, or two categories based on their melting points, namely high-temperature PCMs above 200°C and low-temperature PCMs below 200°C. High-temperature PCMs are suitable for use in solar power plants, while low-temperature PCMs are primarily used in waste heat recovery systems and buildings. Organic PCMs exhibit desirable properties for low-temperature applications, such as limited supercooling, no phase segregation, and non-corrosion. Inorganic PCMs possess large latent heat and can be utilized for high-temperature energy storage. However, both organic and inorganic PCMs exhibit low thermal conductivity.

Extensive research has been conducted to enhance the thermal response of phase change materials (PCMs) by incorporating high thermal conductivity materials, with the aim of counterbalancing the rate of heat storage and extraction during melting and solidification cycles. These methods involve the dispersion of high conductivity particles or fibers into the PCMs, as well as the impregnation of a porous metallic or graphite matrix with PCMs.

Copper Foam
Copper Foam

Metal foam is a cellular structure composed of a solid metal matrix that contains a significant proportion of gas-filled pores. These pores may either be sealed, resulting in a closed-cell foam, or interconnected, forming an open-cell foam. The high surface-area to volume ratio and efficient mixing capacity of open-cell light-metallic foams with high porosity have positioned them as a highly promising material for thermal energy storage.

  1. PCMs Embedded with Metal Foam

Thermal energy storage is a crucial requirement in numerous applications, wherein heat must be received, stored, and subsequently released. However, phase change materials (PCMs) are often hindered by their low thermal conductivities, which significantly slow down the phase change process and result in a wide temperature distribution within the PCMs. In contrast, metal foams exhibit thermal conductivities that are an order of magnitude higher than those of PCMs. Furthermore, the random internal structure and high porosity of metal foam can effectively enhance and accelerate the phase change process without significantly reducing the heat storage capacity of PCMs. The distribution of foam ligaments within the PCMs can also contribute to a more uniform melting and solidification process.

There are many kinds of metal foams have been used in phase change materials, such as aluminum foam,copper foam and Nickel foam.

Copper Foam 1 12

1.1 PCMs Embedded with Aluminum Foam

Bauer and Wirtz (2000) devised a thermal energy storage composite in the form of a plate-like structure, comprising a central core of foamed aluminum foam that was filled with phase change material (PCM). This composite was designed to store heat during peak power operation of variable power dissipating devices. In a similar vein, Tong et al. (1995) incorporated a matrix of continuously connected aluminum foam into phase change material (water) and examined the solidification heat transfer of the water. The findings of the study indicate that the insertion of a metal matrix into water represents a highly effective means of enhancing solidification heat transfer.

In 2012, Jiang and colleagues developed a shape-stabilized phase change material (PCM) by utilizing bulk porous aluminum foams that were impregnated with organic PCMs, namely paraffin and stearic acid. The researchers conducted an investigation into the thermal and dynamic mechanical properties of the shape-stabilized PCMs. The filling fraction of the PCMs was found to be greater than 80%, and the latent heat values of the paraffin/Al foam and stearic acid/Al foam composites were determined to be 72.9 kJ/kg and 66.7 kJ/kg, respectively.

1.2 PCMs Embedded with Copper Foam

Chi et al. (2011) developed a novel type of high-efficiency energy storage devices comprising copper foam and water. The incorporation of copper foam was found to enhance the cold charging process, resulting in faster and more efficient energy storage.

Sheng et al. (2013) synthesized a composite phase change material consisting of salt hydrate and metal foam, utilizing barium hydroxide octahydrate (Ba(OH)2·8H2O) as the latent heat storage PCM and copper foam as a supporting matrix. The thermal cycling and heat transfer performance of the material were investigated, revealing that the high porosity copper foam not only improved the heat transfer rate of Ba(OH)2·8H2O but also effectively reduced the supercooling of the PCM.

Zhang and Yu (2007) conducted a study on the thermal performance of a solid-liquid phase change thermal storage device filled with 98% pure Heneicosane (C21H44) embedded in copper foam through a vacuuming procedure. The experimental results demonstrated that the use of copper foam as a heat transfer enhancement significantly improved the thermal conductivity and performance of the thermal storage device.

Pencil hardness

Cui (2012) developed a composite PCM using paraffin as the phase change material and copper foam as the filling material. The results indicated that the incorporation of copper foam led to a more uniform temperature distribution within the thermal energy storage unit and significantly reduced the charging time.

  • PCMs Embedded with Nickel Foam

Shiina (2006) conducted a study on the utilization of latent heat storage technology through the use of a composite phase change material (PCM) consisting of a copper or nickel foam saturated with PCM. The findings of the study revealed that the composite PCM exhibited an increased effective thermal conductivity, which resulted in a reduction of temperature change in the heat transfer fluid.

To enhance the void distribution and thermal performance of phase change thermal storage devices, Xu et al (2009) developed and fabricated thermal storage containers that were embedded with nickel foam cores. The incorporation of nickel foam into the PCMs significantly improved both the void distribution and thermal performance of the solid-liquid phase change process.

In a similar vein, Xiao (2013) employed a vacuum impregnation method to prepare composite phase change materials (PCMs) consisting of paraffin/nickel foam and paraffin/copper foam. The results of the study demonstrated a significant enhancement in the thermal conductivity of the composite PCMs, with the thermal conductivity of the paraffin/nickel foam composite being nearly three times greater than that of pure paraffin.

  1. Properties of PCMs Embedded with Metal Foam
    • Effective Thermal Conductivity

The incorporation of metal foam into phase change materials (PCMs) has been shown to enhance heat transfer and improve the effective thermal conductivity of the resulting composite. However, predicting the thermal conductivity of such composites is challenging due to the complex pore structure of the metal foam. To address this issue, Xu et al (2009) proposed a novel phase distribution model for metal foam matrix PCMs. They established a simplified heat transfer model with a void sub-model and derived an effective thermal conductivity formula using the equivalent thermal resistance method. In a separate study, Zhang et al (2010) investigated the thermal parameters (effective thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, and thermal capacity) of copper-foam/paraffin composites with varying porosities using the transient plane source (TPS) method. The results demonstrated a significant improvement in effective thermal conductivity upon embedding copper foam into paraffin, reaching up to 25 times that of pure paraffin.

  • Convection

Metal foam possessing high thermal conductivity is widely recognized as having significant potential to improve the heat transfer performance of phase change materials (PCMs). In order to augment convective thermal transport, metal foam can be utilized to fabricate advanced compact heat exchangers, owing to its high surface area to volume ratio and the enhanced flow mixing resulting from the tortuosity of the passageways. However, the investigation conducted by Tian and Zhao (2011) revealed that the natural convection in the liquid region of the PCMs is impeded by the metal foam. The buoyancy-driven velocities are insufficient to generate dominant convection, due to the high viscosity and low thermal expansion ratio of the PCM, as well as the substantial flow resistance of the metal foam.

Copper Foam, What Is The Application Prospect Of This New Material-2

Phase change materials (PCMs) have been widely studied for their potential to enhance the thermal performance of various applications. One promising approach to further improve the thermal conductivity of PCMs is to embed them with metal foam. This technique has been shown to increase the effective thermal conductivity of the PCM, thereby enhancing its heat transfer capabilities. The use of metal foam as a thermal enhancer is particularly attractive due to its high surface area-to-volume ratio, which allows for efficient heat transfer. Additionally, the porous nature of the metal foam provides a large surface area for the PCM to be in contact with, further enhancing the heat transfer process. The combination of PCMs and metal foam has been investigated in various applications, including building insulation, thermal energy storage, and electronic cooling. Overall, the incorporation of metal foam into PCMs has shown great potential for improving the thermal performance of these materials, making them a promising solution for a wide range of thermal management applications.

Picture of Lu


Our materials research team from Tsinghua University postdoctoral researcher lin and Harbin Institute of Technology researcher Mu, Nanjing University of Technology researcher Wei, they share their expertise in foam metal materials article.

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WE were established in 2003, located in the Gaoxin Zone of Guangdong-Guangxi Cooperation Special Experimental Zone, covering an area of 70 mu, with a plant of about 30,000 square meters, with more than 170 employees, is an advanced new material technology enterprise integrating research and development, production and sales.

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