Saman Nimali Gunasekara
Cheap Heating & Cooling? Moving Beyond Ice & Water
Saman Nimali Gunasekara, PhD.
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For thousand years, ice is used by man for cheap cooling. This is the most common and cheapest phase change material ever, changing ice-to-water and reverse. Energy is scarce today, with heating and cooling using a major proportion. However, power plants and industries still merely discharge a notable share of excess heat and cold to the environment. Storing this waste energy in materials phase changing solid-to-liquid or reverse, gives better resource efficiency. These can be used in heating and cooling, later, and elsewhere. Presently, many phase change materials, except ice, are expensive. In this, Saman’s doctoral research focused on cost-effective solid-liquid phase change materials (PCM) development from blends, for storing thermal energy. This is just one key research focus Saman Nimali Gunasekara is engaged in, today.
Dr. Saman Nimali Gunasekara is a Researcher at Applied Thermodynamics and Refrigeration division at Energy Technology, KTH. From 2022, she is also the Coordinator for Energy Technology department for the Research Area 3 on Sustainable Energy Systems – Technology and Business Perspectives within the Research Initiative on Sustainable Industry and Society (IRIS) at Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM) school, KTH. Saman holds a PhD in Energy and Environmental Systems (KTH-Sweden), an M.Sc. in Sustainable Technology (KTH- Sweden), and a B.Sc. in Chemical and Process Engineering (University of Moratuwa- Sri Lanka). Between the bachelors and masters, she worked as a Research and Development Engineer for Lucky Lanka Milk Processing Co. Ltd., Sri Lanka for one and a half years.
Saman in her doctoral research focused in understanding material blends’ phase change behavior to find suitable PCM. Blends are often cheaper, compared to pure-grade materials which are the commercialized majority today. The research involved experimental characterization with the temperature-history method, X-ray diffraction and scanning-electron microscopy, and thermodynamic modelling. In-combine, a systematic approach was proposed by employing phase equilibrium evalautions-based design of cost-effective and robust PCMs from blends.
Saman's recent research also involve Thermal Energy Storage (TES) in a broader context, e.g. with Neutrons for Heat Storage(NHS) and Distributed Cold Storages in the District Cooling (DC) System. TheNHS project was a Nordic collaboration between DTU-Denmark (project leaders), IFE-Norway, and Amminex Technologies- Denmark, on TES using thermochemical heat storage materials (TCMs) using chemical reactions. TheDistributed Cold Storages in the DC System was a Swedish project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and Energiforsk, and is a collaboration with the DC company Norrenergi AB. She is currently also engaged in new low-GWP refrigerants characterization and analysis using Gas Chromatography, further broadening her research scope. This project "Refrigerants with low GWP - participation in IEA HPT Annex 54" is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency.
Saman, as the main author has numerous journal publications (in e.g. Applied Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, International Journal of Refrigeration, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, Calphad, International Journal of Energy Research, and Crystals), and conference publications (e.g. International Conference on Applied Energy 2013 and 2014, GreenStock 2015, International Conference on Sustainable Energy Storage in Buildings 2013, and International Conference on Solar Heating and Cooling for Buildings and Industry SHC 2015, International Symposium on Innovative Materials for Processes in Energy Systems IMPRES 2016, International Renewable Energy Storage Conference IRES 2017, Enerstock 2018, 2021, Eurotherm Seminar n.112-2019 and DHC 2021).