Pluss: revolutionalising phase change materials manufacturing

Pluss Polymers is among the distinguished few in the world heading revolution in the business of research, development and manufacture of specialised polymers and phase change materials. Excerpts from an interview with Samit Jain, Director, Pluss Polymers Pvt. Ltd.
How innovative technology changing the face of polymers manufacturing in India?The demand for polymers has increased manifolds in the past decade with the growth of automobile, white goods and packaging industry. Many global players have entered the Indian market and with that the requirement of quality products. India has relied heavily on imports for speciality polymers but with increasing consumption and volatile exchange rate this is not sustainable anymore. Companies will definitely look for a local source and Pluss is already gearing up for it. We are increasing our capacity for speciality polymers from 800 tonnes per annum to 1,800 tonnes per annum by November this year. We have stepped up our R&D efforts and look to have some new products like grafted SEBS, tie layer for multilayer packaging films and grafted ABS up our sleeve in the next few months. We believe the increase in demand will also bring in more local and international players. The competition will increase to benefit all.Brief us on the usages of PCM (Phase Change Material) in reducing energy cost.Pluss is among the very few in the world manufacturing Phase Change Materials and the only company in India do so. Phase Change Materials (PCMs) are special thermal energy storage materials being extensively used as a reliable source of energy to maintain required temperatures in various industries. The thermal energy transfer occurs when a material changes from a solid to a liquid or from a liquid to a solid. This is called a change in state or ‘phase’. PCMs can be used in a wide range of application wherever there is a need to store thermal energy to reduce energy cost, ensure temperature control when power is unavailable or improve overall efficiency of the system.
For countries like India where there is a power shortage, PCMs can help save on diesel costs. Energy cold or hot can be stored when electricity is available and utilised during power outages minimising the use of generators. How is the concept catching up in India?Thermal energy storage products are quite new in the market and as it is with any new technology, there is reluctance to change from conventional methods. Moreover, some products need a complete overhaul (like lunchbox) to incorporate PCM in the mainstream. Industry is sceptical of making such huge investments. The acceptance will come with awareness of how PCM will make life easy for everyone. An industry leader has to be open-minded and take that next big step. Pluss as an organisation is taking part in various conferences, seminars and exhibitions to create awareness about thermal energy storage products. Pluss is also making product prototypes by tying up with various organisations like CMC Vellore, Tessol, etc.
Industry response has been positive until now. They are surprised by the performance of PCM’s and many companies are testing it as of now. PCM’s are bound to take over the market in the next 2-3 years.
What are the advantages of using PCM?PCMs are a cost-effective solution for maintaining temperature for a prolonged duration of time without the help of any external source. It acts as a back-up for temperature critical applications. It is a green concept and helps in reducing the energy requirement, thereby saving cost. It acts as a storage device and has the ability to shift the peak power loads to off-peak hours.
Are there any disadvantage too?PCM’s are a relatively new technology with a wide variety of applications. Some applications need huge investments and a change in the traditional processes. So in capital intensive application, market is more rigid with less risk tolerance. This acts as a main barrier for PCM’s to reach its market potential.Could you brief us on the technologies or solutions developed by you?Pluss has been a constant trendsetter in its field, being the first in the country to commercially manufacture functionalised polymers for improving compatibilisation and processing of polymer composites. These speciality polymers help in improving the mechanical properties of PP and nylon compounds. It acts as coupling agents for ACP compounds and HFFR wire and cable compounds.
Pluss has developed the right additive for recycling of PET, PC, PBT and Nylons, bringing back the properties of reprocessed material to virgin levels. Pluss also offers the tie layer for multilayer packaging films used in packaged foods.Pluss also bears the distinction of pioneering PCMs for a wide variety of applications in the country and is among the distinguished few in the world heading this revolution. Pluss has a wide temperature range of PCM from (-) 37 C to (+) 89 C. Pluss has revolutionised the deep freezer industry by offering (-) 23 C material replacing the traditional glycol solution giving back up of more than 16 hours. We are also offering PCMs which maintain a temperature of 2-8 C required in transport of many pharmaceutical products. Not only this we have developed 22 C PCM, needed for transport of blood platelets and wine, exporting a majority of them to US.
Another path breaking development in the past few months has been 65 C PCM. It is being used in lunchboxes for keeping the food warm for a period of more than 5 hours without the use of any oven or other warming device. It is being used in ‘LavaLunch’ products in US.
Are you in the process of getting the technologies patented?As a company, we target both innovations and improvements in a product. All the improvements are proprietary technology which helps us have a competitive advantage over others. The innovations are taken up for patenting once the commercial feasibility of the innovation is developed. We have applied for 7 patents in the last couple of years. Some highlights being microwavable PCM, reinforced form stable PCM and device for cooling neonates for therapeutic hypothermia.
How Tessol tie-up will be beneficial for PLUSS?Tessol is a technology-based start-up. Pluss has tied up with Tessol to provide HVAC solutions using PCM’s. The systems on offer under this partnership are ideally suited for commercial offices and shopping complexes operational for 10 – 12 hours during the day essentially. These energy storage systems enable the building to generate and store cool energy at night and use when there is a shortage during the day. They will help State Electricity Boards (SEBs) meet the huge demand-supply gap.
The combination of R&D expertise in materials, polymers offered by Pluss and the application development team of Tessol will collectively allow us to roll out products besides the conventional ice storage systems that the country has seen so far. We are enabling storing of the cool energy that is freely available at night for desert regions and warm energy freely available during the day in cold regions of the country.
Are you looking at any other expansion or tie-ups? Our tagline is – ‘Synergism at work’. We don’t just act as a supplier to our customers but we are partners in creating the right product for them. We believe in working along with professionals or experts from different industries and developing solutions for the betterment of society in general.
Pluss is working with CMC Vellore for developing a low cost solution using PCM for treating HIE in babies, reason for 1.5 lakh deaths in India and impairing many others.
Bayer Materials and Pluss are jointly exploring the inclusion of PCM with insulation for improving cold chain transport.
We are doing a project on reducing energy consumption in buildings using PCM in ceiling tiles in the range of 22 to 27 C. This is part of a larger project being led by CEPT, Ahmedabad and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, USA and funded by the US-Dept. of Energy and DST, Govt. of India.
Some applications where PCM’s are being used to save on energy cost• Building HVAC: Utilising off-peak electricity to reduce requirements in peak hours.• Last mile distribution: Maintaining the temperature without any external source of energy.• Solar applications: Storing the solar energy available in day time for use in the night time.• Automobiles: Reduction in the AC run time using PCM lining.

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