Passive thermal regulation with 3D printed phase change material/cellulose nanofibrils composites

Abstract: Application of phase change materials (PCM)-containing composite represents a promising passive thermal control strategy to provide indoor thermal comfort without using powered equipment. Yet, the trade-off between high thermal storage density and good thermal stability is the major obstacle that restricts the thermal regulation performance of the current PCM-containing products. This study proposed a facile approach to prepare PCM/cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) ink for 3D printed composite monolith, with very high PCM loading, good thermal stability, and robust mechanical properties. By incorporating a small amount of CNF gel as the stabilizer and viscosity modifier, the CNF-microencapsulated paraffin (model PCM) obtained essential printability to construct tailorable structure using Direct Ink Writing technology. After ice templating and freeze drying, the microencapsulated PCM particles were in-situ embedded in a CNF-assembled scaffold, forming a PCM/CNF composite. The lightweight nature of such scaffold (35.0 mg/cm3 for pure CNF matrix) endowed the composite monolith with high PCM loading (up to 82% with respect to the composite) and high thermal storage capacity (up to 153 J/g). Due to the 3D-interlinked CNF matrix and the coated CNF on PCM particles, the composite monolith not only exhibited high Young's modulus of up to 1.14 MPa but also showed exceptional thermal stability with negligible variation in microscopic morphology and thermal storage capacity, after high temperature conditioning at 80 °C for 30 h.

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