Sir Terry Leahy Invests In Phase Change Technology Company

Since leaving Tesco, former CEO Sir Terry Leahy has been investing in new technology companies and Datum Phase Change Ltd who specialise in phase change material technology is one of the latest he has become involved with. The company manufactures various wall and ceiling systems incorporating microencapsulated phase change material to provide lightweight thermal mass and reduce the energy demands of existing HVAC systems.

“I’d been looking for an environmental investment for some time and this one I thought was really attractive,” says Leahy. “I thought that this was an amazing environmental and low-cost solution, particularly in the UK where we don’t always have the highest building standards.”
Sir Terry Leahy

Datum Phase Change have recently launched their GeoBlue‚Ñ¢ system, a hybrid heating and cooling ceiling solution which combines phase change materials with radiant heating and cooling elements whereby cold or hot water flows through a series of micro-capillary tubing .

Using Radiant heating and cooling creates a healthy and silent indoor environment unlike standard mechanical heating and cooling systems, allowing a higher space set-point temperature whilst still maintaining the same level of cooling comfort compared to a traditional air handling unit (AHU).

GeoBlue‚Ñ¢ does not warm or cool the air but the surfaces within the building such as walls, floor and objects creating a feeling of warmth or cooling and well-being. Human beings are exothermic heat generators. Heat emission from the body occurs through four modes of transfer – Radiation, Convection, Evaporation and Conduction. Our bodies radiate heat to any surface which is cooler than our surface temperature (29∞C – 32∞C). In warmer weather, cold surfaces surrounding the body increases radiant heat loss and increases comfort.

GeoBlue‚Ñ¢ works by the phase change material absorbing and storing excess latent heat gains from within the building which is then recharged as the excess latent heat is removed using a flow of cooled water through a series of capillary tubes. The surface temperature of the ceiling is controlled by a temperature regulation sensor to ensure that the system always operates above the dew point and so a conformed flow temperature level is achieved to provide a maximum cooling capacity at the highest standard. Also incorporated into the panels is an expanded graphite which increases its thermal conductivity by over five time that of a standard gypsum board and distributes heat energy rapidly and uniformly over the surface thus improving the energy efficiency of the radiant heating and cooling system.

Compared to standard mechanical heating and cooling, the GeoBlue‚Ñ¢ system can achieve considerable energy reductions. This is because the phase change material requires zero energy to absorb the latent heat from the building and reduces the supply water temperature which allows the integration of renewable systems such as geothermal heat pumps at maximum efficiencies.

The technology can be installed into new or retrofit commercial projects such as offices and educational buildings but we also see a huge market to reduce the energy demands in heritage buildings which consist of listed buildings built before 1945 and unlisted buildings with historic or iconic value. These buildings have a huge energy demand and are considered hard to treat as they cannot incorporate modern insulation methods. The GeoBlue‚Ñ¢ system warms and cools the fabric of these buildings without a detrimental effect on the structure. We are also in talks with other companies for collaboration in District Heating and Cooling projects for the domestic housing sector.

By UKBAA 16 Feb 2015