Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Nima Rahbar, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Leonard D. Albano, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Tahar El-Korchi, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Aaron R. Sakulich, Advisor




In recent decades, much research has investigated the efficiency of Phase Change Materials (PCMs) in improving the thermal performance of buildings and pavements. In buildings, increasing the thermal inertia of structural elements by incorporating PCMs decreases the energy required to keep the inside temperature in the comfort range. In concrete pavements, using PCMs decreases the number of freeze/thaw cycles experienced by the pavement and thus increases service life. However, PCMs cannot be added to cementitious binders directly, because they interfere with the hydration reactions between cement and water that produce strength-bearing phases. Therefore different carriers have been proposed to indirectly incorporate PCMs in cementitious materials. Lightweight Aggregate (LWA) is one of the materials that has been proposed as PCM carrier agent. However, it was not studied in depth before. Various experiments were conducted to investigate the problems associated with incorporating LWA presoaked in PCM in cementitious media. The results show that a portion of PCM leaks out of the LWA’s structure and subsequently affects different chemical, physical, and mechanical properties of the binder. In addition, the applicability of Rice Husk Ash (RHA), a common material never before used to encapsulate PCM, as a PCM carrier agent was investigated. The results show that RHA can absorb and contain liquids in its porous structure; and regarding its compatibility with the cementitious media, it can be used as PCM carrier. Different computational simulations using Typical Meteorological Year data were conducted to evaluate the efficiency of PCMs in improving the thermal performance of buildings. Utilizing PCM-incorporated gypsum boards was shown to be a promising strategy to achieve the governmental plans of “Zero Net Energy� buildings. The results show that using a PCM with a melting point near the occupant comfort zone delays and reduces the inside peak temperature, increases the duration of time during which the inside temperature stays in the comfort zone, and decreases the cost and energy required by HVAC system to keep the inside temperature in this range. However, PCMs’ efficiency is completely dependent on the input temperature profile.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Rice Husk Ash, Lightweight Aggregate, Service Life of Pavements, Occupant Comfort, Temperature Changes in Buildings, Phase Change Materials