Polymers (Basel). 2023 Jul 27;15(15):3192. doi: 10.3390/polym15153192.
Phase change materials (PCMs), which can absorb and release large amounts of latent heat during phase change, have been extensively studied for heat storage and thermal management. However, technical bottlenecks regarding low thermal conductivity and leakage have hindered practical applications of PCMs. In this paper, a simple, economical, and scalable absorption polymerization technique is proposed to prepare the polymethyl methacrylate/propyl palmitate/expanded graphite (MPCM/EG) phase change composites by constructing the microencapsulated phase change materials (polymethyl methacrylate/propyl palmitate, MPCM) with core-shell structures in the three-dimensional (3D) EG networks, taking propyl palmitate as the PCM core, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) as the shell, and long-chain “worm-like” EG as the thermally conductive networks. This technique proved to be a more appropriate combinatorial pathway than direct absorption of MPCM via EG. The MPCM/EG composites with high thermal conductivity, high enthalpy, excellent thermal stability, low leakage, and good thermal cycle reliability were prepared. The results showed that the MPCM-80/EG-10 composite demonstrated a high thermal conductivity of 3.38 W/(m·K), a phase change enthalpy up to 152.0 J/g, an encapsulation ratio of 90.3%, outstanding thermal stability performance, and long-term thermal cycle reliability when the EG loading is 10% and propyl palmitate is 80%. This research offers an easy and efficient approach for designing and fabricating phase change composites with promising applications in diverse energy-saving fields, such as renewable energy collection, building energy conservation, and microelectronic devices thermal protection.