A comprehensive review on sub-zero temperature cold thermal energy storage materials, technologies, and applications: state of the art and recent developments

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Lizhong Yang
  • Uver Villalobos
  • Bakytzhan Akhmetov
  • Antoni Gil
  • Jun Onn Khor
  • Luisa F. Cabeza
  • Wooi Leong Tan
  • Alessandro Romagnoli

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Institute for Sports Research, Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University
  • Universitat de Lleida
  • Surbana Jurong
  • School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


The energy industry needs to take action against climate change by improving efficiency and increasing the share of renewable sources in the energy mix. On top of that, refrigeration, air-conditioning, and heat pump equipment account for 25–30% of the global electricity consumption and will increase dramatically in the next decades. However, some waste cold energy sources have not been fully used. These challenges triggered an interest in developing the concept of cold thermal energy storage, which can be used to recover the waste cold energy, enhance the performance of refrigeration systems, and improve renewable energy integration. This paper comprehensively reviews the research activities about cold thermal energy storage technologies at sub-zero temperatures (from around −270 °C to below 0 °C). A wide range of existing and potential storage materials are tabulated with their properties. Numerical and experimental work conducted for different storage types is systematically summarized. Current and potential applications of cold thermal energy storage are analyzed with their suitable materials and compatible storage types. Selection criteria of materials and storage types are also presented. This review aims to provide a quick reference for researchers and industry experts in designing cold thermal energy systems. Moreover, by identifying the research gaps where further efforts are needed, the review also outlines the progress and potential development directions of cold thermal energy storage technologies.

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: The authors would like to acknowledge the funding support from SJ-NTU Corporate Lab. This work was partially funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades de España (RTI2018-093849-B-C31 - MCIU/AEI/FEDER, UE), and the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades - Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) (RED2018-102431-T). The authors at the University of Lleida would like to thank the Catalan Government for the quality accreditation given to their research group (2017 SGR 1537). GREiA is certified agent TECNIO in the category of technology developers from the Government of Catalonia. This work is partially supported by ICREA under the ICREA Academia program. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors


Original languageEnglish
Article number116555
Number of pages43
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date23 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021


  • Cold thermal energy storage, Encapsulation method, Numerical, Phase change materials (PCMs), Storage system, Sub-zero