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HeatStock ties for first place in Helsinki Challenge idea competition

Aalto-led team develops material that stores heat.

Team HeatStock, led by Aalto University, shared the first prize in the Helsinki Challenge science-based idea competition. The team shared its winning spot with team iCombine, led by the University of Helsinki. The goal of the competition is to discover new science-based solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges. The 375 000-euro prize is to be used to realise the solution and will be shared by the two teams.

The leader of team HeatStock is Senior Scientist Ari Seppälä from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Aalto University. The research group developed a material that can store heat for long periods of time and release it release it for later use. The solution supports the use of renewable forms of energy, increases the energy efficiency of industrial processes and helps save natural resources.

The heat can be collected for example using solar collectors in buildings or waste heat generated by industry and power plants. This heat can then be used in winter to heat residential and other buildings, in industrial processes or in a smaller capacity, for example in preheating car engines. This new material provides a wealth of opportunities and can be used to store heat for a practically infinite period of time.

Konsta Turunen (left) and Salla Puupponen observe how the material behaves at different temperatures. Photo Aalto University

The team consists of Ari Seppälä and team members Salla Puupponen, Konsta Turunen, Olli Vartia and Kari Saari from Aalto University, Leena Hupa and Daniel Lindberg from Åbo Akademi University, Kirsi Jouppila from the University of Helsinki, as well as Ilkka Hippinen and Kati Laakso from Motiva.

‘Winning the shared 1st prize is really fantastic, and I want to thank our entire team and the organisers of the Helsinki Challenge,’ says Ari Seppälä.

‘The material that we’ve developed still requires further study, as it only functions perfectly when it is manufactured in a compact size, i.e. about the size of a drop of water. For practical applications, we need to be able to scale it up, to for example units of one hundred grams.  Increasing its size involves physical phenomena that are still fairly unknown. The prize money will help us push on with our development work and reach the pilot phase,’ notes Seppälä.

HeatStock's team leader DSc (Tech) Ari Seppälä works as Senior Scientist at Aalto University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology Research Group. Photo by Meeri Utti.

‘HeatStock's multidisciplinary team has done a fantastic job. The material that they have developed is an excellent reminder of the potential of science: universities produce important knowledge and research-based solutions for complicated problems,’ says Aalto University Vice President Tuija Pulkkinen.

The Helsinki Challenge competition received 110 submissions. The semifinalist jury selected 20 of these for the accelerator programme. The seven teams for the final were chosen in June 2017. Aalto University was one of the organisers of the competition, and in addition to HeatStock, some of the other teams in the competition featured researchers from Aalto as well.

The basic raw material of this new material is a xylitol-like sugar alcohol whose thermophysical properties can be altered with the help of polymers. Photo by Konsta Turunen.

 

More information:

Senior Scientist Ari Seppälä
Aalto University, 050 441 2110, [email protected]

Photos, descriptions and contact details of the winning team and other Helsinki Challenge finalist teams: http://bit.ly/hcfinalists2017
Helsinki Challenge competition: challenge.helsinki.fi

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