Monday, March 4, 2013

Better Pizza with Phase Change Materials

For many generations, pizza continues to be one of America’s favorite foods and a staple for many college students and single adults. It is a simple, unpretentious, pragmatic, allinone meal that appeases the youngest to the oldest across all ethnicities. With the ease of delivery, Americans can enjoy pizza anytime, anywhere. So, have you ever ordered a pizza and it was delivered lukewarm with gloppy cheese?

A group of pizza loving, engineering students, while taking Dr. Ravi Gorthala's heat transfer and thermal engineering class at the University of New Haven, devised an experiment using phase change materials for a simple and creative solution to keep pizza warm.


Typically, a pizza comes out of the oven at 75C/167F . According to the students, people enjoy consuming their pizza quite warm but not too hot at 50C/122F. Most prefer their meals hot and believe the heat heightens flavors and sustains a sense of comfort. On the other hand, tongue burn is painful and lasting. Food temperature is important. Therefore, most pizza chains strive to make deliveries within 30 minutes and by using insulated delivery bags to ensure their pizzas stay hot. But with cold weather, bad traffic and GPS failure, keeping pizza hot is a common challenge that often ends in a disappointing meal.

The students experiment was simple and well done. They crafted a wooden box that would fit a 16” pizza, lined the inside walls with insulation foam of R-value 4 and left room to insert savENRG phase change materials in food grade plastic bottles. The team ran different tests with and without the PCMs and recorded the results.


PCMs or phase change materials are any materials that change from one phase to another. The brand of savENRG PCMs maintain specific temperatures while changing its phase from a liquid to solid and back to a liquid. The students used 2 bottles of savENRG PCM at 53C/127F and these were completely melted before inserting into the pizza box. The results were predictably better with the PCMs than without but the real question is how much better?

Simulation of experimental wooden box in ANSYS
The best result came from the 3rd and final test with 4 PCM bottles. Two bottles at 53C/127F and two more at 58C/136F were inserted into the pizza box after being fully charged. After 2 hours, the pizza recorded at 46C/115F, still deliciously hot. The proof validated by the voracious consumption of the tasty pizza by the students following the final project. The other pizza in the cardboard box without the PCM was appropriately abandoned. Just to note that both boxes with pizzas were carried to and from the presentation in cold, Connecticut, winter conditions.

The second test fared also well. It was recorded with the pizza going into the box at a lower temperature but with the addition of two bottles of PCM 53C/127F. After 2 hours, the pizza registered at 42C/108F. After 10 hours (600 minutes), the same pizza in the same box was still at 31C/88F. At this temperature, the pizza is not hot but clearly still enjoyable depending on the your level of hunger.

In the first experiment, the pizza was placed inside the insulated box at 50C/122F without the PCM. An hour later, the pizza checked at 41C/106F.

So the next time you receive your favorite pizza or delivery food, lukewarm or cold, suggest using PCMs or for that matter,consider PCMs for any foods you’d like to keep hot at anytime for any reasons.

This article has been wriiten by Nina Reinhart as a summary of the experiment report. Nina Reinhart is a co-founder of RGEES LLC, a small women owned company specializing in design and manufacture of PCM based thermal energy storage solutions. 

1 comment:

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