Most buildings rely mainly on heating/cooling systems for climate control, and as we know, heavy reliability on those systems results in high energy usage and big energy bills. National Gypsum is trying to change that with its ThermalCORE wall panels.
ThermalCORE looks like regular drywall: a gypsum core sandwiched between sheets of fiberglass. However, the mold resistant gypsum core is filled with Micronal® (produced by BASF). Micronal is a “microencapsulated, high-purity paraffin wax.” When this phase-change material reaches a temperature over 73°, the wax starts to melt and absorb heat (studies show it can absorb up to 22 BTUs of thermal energy per square foot). When the temperature drops below 73°, the wax solidifies and releases the heat that it absorbed earlier. The result is a more constant room temperature which means more energy efficient climate control.
Unlike most phase change materials that only work through a few hundred cycles before they lose the ability to completely melt and resolidify, ThermalCORE has been tested through 10,000 cycles, the equivalent of about 30 years.
ThermalCORE isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but is being tested in the Green Idea House being built in Hermosa Beach, CA. Testing is also being done to examine how the panels will react in different climates so the panels can be customized by changing the amount of wax capsules (more for hot, humid environments, less for cold and dry). And in Europe, where a similar product is already in use, savings from decreased A/C usage are estimated at about 20%.