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MSE Students Collaborate with Statis Energy Group to Develop Thermal Energy Storage Solutions

Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) undergraduate students at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering completed a senior design project in collaboration with Statis Energy Group, a company developing thermal energy storage solutions for packaged HVAC units that reduce late-day demand and year-long energy savings. Through this partnership, students gained real-world experience in industry and produced findings that will help shape Statis’ product offerings.

“The purpose of our senior design course, in general, is to help students begin to realize how to transfer the skills and knowledge gained in their undergraduate coursework into the context of real contemporary science and engineering work,” said MSE senior design lecturer Stephen Exarhos.

Statis’ system is based in part on bio-based phase change materials (PCM) with high latent heat that transition between solid and liquid at specific temperatures designed to yield the greatest thermal storage benefit in commercial buildings. Most commercial buildings in California use RTUs (roof-top units) for HVAC, which use over 22.6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. Stasis-TESS works with existing and new RTU’s to improve efficiency, lower peak demand, reduce consumption, lower GHG emissions and save money. Statis’ work is funded in part by several grants from the California Energy Commission.

Students were tasked with analyzing fire resistive properties of sealants used in Statis’ manufacturing process to ensure its products meet the highest standard of fire classification. Utilizing a materials approach, MSE students worked to optimize energy storage and analyze the efficiency of Statis’ thermal storage panels.

“These industry partnerships are particularly valuable for students’ professional development because they expose students to the objectives and working parameters associated with a company-managed project, which tend to be extremely different from those within an academic setting,” said Exarhos.

Shortly after launching the project, the pandemic began, and the scope of the work was modified to support remote work and instruction.

The focus shifted from lab-based research to theoretical work including computer modeling, literature review of PCM, and creating simulated aging experiments. Through literature review, the students worked to find ways to improve Statis’ PCM by several metrics. Using computer modeling, the students worked to showcase how changes in configurations and materials could affect the Panel efficiency.

Ultimately, students’ findings will be considered by Statis to improve its products. 

Robert Morton, president of Statis Energy Group, said that students exceeded their goals, despite having limited or no access to campus labs and Statis personnel due to the pandemic.

“The Senior Design project team members are a credit to UC Riverside and the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the Bourns College of Engineering,” said Morton. “We enjoyed working with the team, appreciated their energy and curiosity and are certain that they will all go on to bright and productive careers.”