Row of painted terraced houses

Lowering fuel costs and saving thermal energy with a coat of paint

With water and space heating accounting for some 48% of the UK’s energy consumption, a University of Liverpool academic is developing solutions to help save thermal energy and reduce CO2 emissions in domestic settings.

Professor Dmitry Shchukin from the Department of Chemistry has developed a thermo-regulating paint additive that can absorb and release heat inside brick buildings, keeping rooms warm whenever necessary by using excess energy.

From old house to efficient home

Dmitry says the innovation of new materials such as this thermo-regulating additive for commercial paints is critical for our future green economy, especially in domestic applications.

The paint will be particularly effective in older houses, which tend to be less energy-efficient. “Such thermo-regulating paint formulations can be used for retrofitting of the already existing buildings improving their thermal efficiency without deterioration of the architectural style, historical heritage and other functionalities,” Dmitry says.

But how does it work?

The paint project follows on from 2014 ERC-funded ‘Enercapsule’ work at the University, which focused on the encapsulation of ‘phase-change’ materials (PCMs) for storage and release of thermal energy.

PCMs can store large amounts of thermal energy and change states — from solid to liquid and vice versa — without altering their own temperature.

Dmitry has applied this fundamental knowledge on PCM encapsulation to create a thermal energy storage additive to commercially available paints, using encapsulated salt hydrates.

The project is addressing key challenges including the optimal arrangement of the PCM-loaded energy capsules in the coating matrix, and controlling heat absorption and release processes by the capsule shell to ensure the right operating temperature range for each PCM capsule.

 “We used salt hydrates due to their low cost and very high volumetric energy storage density,” says Dmitry. “However, these are very difficult to encapsulate as they are corrosive and dissolve in water. We got around this by enclosing them in polymer shells, which protect them from the surrounding environment but also allow them to respond to the heat in a controlled way.”

During the day, when these energy nanocapsules absorb and store heat at their melting temperature, the PCMs turn into liquid and during the cold nights they crystallise at a defined temperature, releasing heat and warming the room.

A hive of materials expertise

Professor Shchukin has praised the University of Liverpool’s research environment in enabling him to advance this research.

“The University offers unique facilities for research in renewable energy technologies including energy generation and storage. The Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy combines knowledge from Chemistry, Physics and Engineering for the development of new energy technologies.

“We can also access equipment available in the Materials Innovation Factory and the Department of Chemistry’s Ultra Mixing and Processing Facility for high throughput research and up-scaling of the fabrication of energy capsules.

“This unique combination results in quick and easy solutions for industrial partners (paint producers), and we collaborate with international and local industries.”

Professor Dmitry Shchukin, FRSC has a diverse background in encapsulation of active materials in nanocapsules with controlled permeability of the shell, synthesis of nanomaterials, surface functionalization and ultrasonic chemistry. He leads the Active Materials and Interfaces group at the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy and is Director of Ultra Mixing and Processing Facility.

Such thermo-regulating paint formulations can be used for retrofitting of the already existing buildings improving their thermal efficiency without deterioration of the architectural style, historical heritage and other functionalities.

Professor Dmitry Shchukin

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