The colloidal dispersion of solid nanoparticles (1–100nm) has been shown experimentally to be an effective way to enhance the thermal conductivity of heat transfer fluids. Moreover, large particles (micrometers to tens of micrometers) of phase-change materials have long been used to make slurries with improved thermal storage capacity. Here, a hybrid concept that uses nanoparticles made of phase-change materials is proposed to simultaneously enhance the effective thermal conductivity and the effective heat capacity of fluids. Water-in-perfluorohexane nanoemulsion fluids and indium-in-polyalphaolefin nanofluids are examples of fluids that have been successfully synthesized for experimental studies of their thermophysical properties (i.e., thermal conductivity, viscosity, and heat capacity) as functions of particle loading and temperature. The thermal conductivity of perfluorohexane was found to increase by up to 52% for nanoemulsion fluids containing 12 vol. % water nanodroplets with a hydrodynamic radius of ∼10 nm. Also observed in water-in-perfluorohexane nanoemulsion fluids was a remarkable improvement in effective heat capacity, about 126% for 12 vol. % water loading, due to the melting-freezing transitions of water nanodroplets to ice nanoparticles and vice versa. The increases in the thermal conductivity and dynamic viscosity of these nanoemulsion fluids were found to be highly nonlinear against water loading, indicating the important roles of the hydrodynamic interaction and the aggregation of nanodroplets. For indium-in-polyalphaolefin nanofluids, the thermal conductivity enhancement increases slightly with increasing temperature (i.e., about 10.7% at 30°C to 12.9% at 90°C) with a nanoparticle loading of 8 vol. %. The effective volumetric heat capacity can be increased by about 20% for the nanofluids containing 8 vol. % indium nanoparticles with an average diameter of 20 nm. Such types of phase-change nanoemulsions and nanofluids possess long-term stability and can be mass produced without using as-prepared nanoparticles. The observed melting-freezing phase transitions of nanoparticles of phase-change materials (i.e., water nanodroplets and indium nanoparticles) considerably augmented the effective heat capacity of the base fluids. The use of phase-change nanoparticles would thus provide a way to substantially enhance the thermal transport properties of conventional heat transfer fluids. Future development of these phase-change nanofluids is expected to open new opportunities for studies of thermal fluids.

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