A finite element-based framework for understanding the energy performance of concrete elements incorporating phase change materials
Dwindling energy resources and associated environmental costs have resulted in a serious need to design and construct energy efficient buildings. One of the strategies to develop energy efficient structural materials is through the incorporation of phase change materials (PCM) in the host matrix. This research work presents details of a finite element-based framework that is used to study the thermal performance of structural precast concrete wall elements with and without a layer of phase change material. The simulation platform developed can be implemented for a wide variety of input parameters. In this study, two different locations in the continental United States, representing different ambient temperature conditions (corresponding to hot, cold and typical days of the year) are studied. Two different types of concrete - normal weight and lightweight, different PCM types, gypsum wallboard's with varying PCM percentages and different PCM layer thicknesses are also considered with an aim of understanding the energy flow across the wall member. Effect of changing PCM location and prolonged thermal loading are also studied. The temperature of the inside face of the wall and energy flow through the inside face of the wall, which determines the indoor HVAC energy consumption are used as the defining parameters. An ad-hoc optimization scheme is also implemented where the PCM thickness is fixed but its location and properties are varied. Numerical results show that energy savings are possible with small changes in baseline values, facilitating appropriate material design for desired characteristics.