Phase-change drywall boards store and release heat to save power

Scientists from Spain’s Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have created a new type of drywall, that they claim can reduce a building’s energy consumption by up to 40 percent. Its secret? Lots of tiny beads of paraffin.

Unlike regular drywall boards (also known as gypsum boards) which use pure plaster, paraffin microcapsules constitute almost half of the plaster mixture used in the new boards. When factors such as sunlight, electrical motors and body heat cause the temperature within a building to rise, that paraffin turns to a liquid state. In doing so, it absorbs some of the ambient heat, causing the building to cool down.

At night, when the ambient temperature drops, the paraffin solidifies, releasing the heat it stored earlier. This helps the building keep from getting too cool.

In tests of the technology, it was found that a 1.5-inch (38-mm)-thick board made from the material had five times the thermal energy capacity as a piece of regular drywall of the same thickness. A six-inch (15-cm) layer of hollow brick masonry was shown to have about the same capacity as the new drywall.

It was also noted that in an area of a building where the material was used, a temperature range of 20 to 30ºC (68 to 86ºF) could be maintained without the use of air conditioning – keep in mind, this was in Spain.

The researchers admit that the use of phase-change materials such as paraffin in drywall is not an entirely new idea, and in fact one product is already commercially available. That material is reportedly composed of just 26 percent paraffin, however, while the technology used to create the new material boosts its paraffin content to 45 percent.


The burning question is, "With 45% paraffin how flammable would this stuff be?" I also question 1-1/2 inch thick drywall. Sounds as if it might be pretty heavy. In the U.S. drywall sheets are 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick and that's already pretty unwieldy in the weight department. I do admire a lot of the unconventional ideas coming out of Spain in the last few years. We'll have to see where this goes.

"I do admire a lot of the unconventional ideas coming out of Spain in the last few years."...I do too and sometimes it seems a little too good to be true how suddenly spain is climing on the hi-tech ladder.
I, for one thing, would like to see somebody come up with good building material that can shelter people even in -40C to -60C that is not uncommon in some parts of siberia.

I would think phase changing would effect the overall integrity over time .Could glaubersalts not be encased in an enclosed grid work and skinned in a paintable surface or would the temperature not get high enough?

Overall integrity wouldn't be affected over time necessarily.
The only reason it might be affected now is due to constant temp changes because we use weak materials in construction.
Other than that, I don't see why we wouldn't be able to simply level a building/house/structure, and use those raw materials by manipulating with their molecular structure to create a new structure via molecular manufacturing (nanotechnology) or 3d printing.

Superior synthetic materials which can be made in abundance such as graphene and synthetic diamonds could be adjusted on a molecular scale most likely to suit these needs that would eliminate if not greatly reduce the issue of integrity loss... coupled with carbon nanotubes... we can make materials now that regenerate themselves over time should problems arise.
Self-maintenance.... it was doable some time ago.

Or we could just use hollow tile? Having 45% paraffin in what is considered a fire resistant building material (5/8" is around one hour or so burn through if on both sides of a 2X4 wall construction). While drywall may be cheap, it has saved lives over the wood paneling many houses had just a few decades ago, and brought down construction costs to a level that made houses affordable.

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