Thermal energy storage: Challenges and the role of particle technology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Zhiwei Ge
  • Dacheng Li
  • Ze Sun
  • Yi Jin
  • Chuanping Liu
  • Chuan Li
  • Guanghui Leng

External organisations

  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • East China University of Science and Technology
  • University of Science and Technology Beijing


Thermal energy is at the heart of the whole energy chain providing a main linkage between the primary and secondary energy sources. Thermal energy storage (TES) has a pivotal role to play in the energy chain and hence in future low carbon economy. However, a competitive TES technology requires a number of scientific and technological challenges to be addressed including TES materials, TES components and devices, and integration of TES devices with energy networks and associated dynamic optimization. This paper provides a perspective of TES technology with a focus on TES materials challenges using molten salts based phase change materials for medium and high temperature applications. Two key challenges for the molten salt based TES materials are chemical incompatibility and low thermal conductivity. The use of composite materials provides an avenue to meeting the challenges. Such composite materials consist of a phase change material, a structural supporting material, and a thermal conductivity enhancement material. The properties of the supporting material could determine the dispersion of the thermal conductivity enhancement material in the salt. A right combination of the salt, the structural supporting material, and the thermal conductivity enhancement material could give a hierarchical structure that is able to encapsulate the molten salt and give a substantial enhancement in the thermal conductivity. Understanding of the structure-property relationships for the composite is essential for the formulation design and fabrication of the composite materials. Linking materials properties to the system level performance is recommended as a key future direction of research.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-8
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2014


  • Composite materials, Role of particle technology, Structure-property relationships, Thermal energy storage