A numerical solution that determines the temperature field inside phase change materials: application in buildings
The use of novel building materials that contain active thermal components would be a major advancement in achieving significant heating and cooling energy savings. In the last 40 years, Phase Change Materials or PCMs have been tested as thermal mass components in buildings, and most studies have found that PCMs enhance the building energy performance. The use of PCMs as an energy storage device is due to their relatively high fusion latent heat; during the melting and/or solidification phase, a PCM is capable of storing or releasing a large amount of energy. PCMs in a wall layer store solar energy during the warmer hours of the day and release it during the night, thereby decreasing and shifting forward in time the peak wall temperature. In this paper, an algorithm is presented based on the general Fourier differential equations that solve the heat transfer problem in multi-layer wall structures, such as sandwich panels, that includes a layer that can change phase. In detail, the equations are proposed and transformed into formulas useful in the FDM approach (finite difference method), which solves the system simultaneously for the temperature at each node. The equation set proposed is accurate, fast and easy to integrate into most building simulation tools in any programming language. The numerical solution was validated using a comparison with the Voller and Cross analytical test problem.