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Keepin’ it Cool (or Hot)


This challenge focuses on developing an innovative solution for thermal energy storage for buildings to optimize energy utilization, enhance sustainability, and increase resilience. The solutions could involve (but are not limited to) integration of materials, systems, and controls for the storage and release of energy.


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Climate change is an immediate global concern, evident from the melting ice caps, sea-level rise, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and shifts in ecosystems and wildlife patterns.1 This change is driven by the excessive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, particularly from burning fossil fuels, which absorb most of the outgoing infrared radiation (i.e., heat) from Earth’s surface and emit in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.2 To combat climate change, it is crucial to reduce fossil fuel usage and transition to clean, renewable energy sources.3 Electrification and decarbonization aim to replace fossil fuel-based systems for power generation, heating, and transportation with electric alternatives powered by renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro.4 However, the intermittent nature of renewable energy poses challenges for the electric power grid in maintaining a stable supply and demand balance.5 Energy storage technologies balance energy supply and demand by enabling storage of surplus energy during periods with high renewable generation, which can be dispatched later during times with low renewable generation, while also reducing peak demand through load shifting to off-peak periods.6 Energy storage systems can also enhance resilience by providing a backup energy source during emergencies for essential services like heating, cooling, and powering critical infrastructure.7

Thermal energy storage (TES) technologies store energy in the form of heat or cooling for later use. Based on the application or purpose, TES can be categorized as building-scale, district-level, or grid-scale TES. Building-scale TES involves the use of storage systems, such as water tanks or phase change materials, to store and release thermal energy within individual buildings, providing energy management and load-shifting capabilities for heating, cooling, and other thermal applications.8  District-level TES involves the storage and distribution of thermal energy for heating and cooling purposes across multiple buildings or facilities.9 Grid-scale TES technologies are integrated into the electrical grid infrastructure for electricity generation, typically at the utility or regional level.10

Depending on the mechanism used to store and release thermal energy, building-scale TES systems can be categorized as sensible heat, latent heat, and thermochemical storage. Sensible heat storage involves storing and releasing energy by changing the temperature of the storage medium, such as water or rocks. Latent heat storage utilizes phase change materials that absorb and release heat during the transition between solid and liquid states. Thermochemical storage involves the storage and release of heat via chemical bonds in reversible chemical reactions.6,11

The use of TES in buildings has a long history. Ancient civilizations utilized natural sources of heat and cold, including sunlight, ambient air, the sky and ground, and the evaporation of water, and stored energy using rocks, water, and the ground, as well as in building mass and phase change materials. Early TES systems in buildings included water-based storage tanks and ice storage systems, where storage of excess energy in the form of heated or chilled water or ice could be utilized later for heating, cooling, or other energy needs. 11,12

Over time, technological advancements led to the development of more sophisticated TES solutions for buildings.13 Advanced materials, such as high-performance phase change materials and high-density ceramics, offer enhanced energy storage capacities and more precise control over the charging and discharging processes. These materials can be charged and discharged at different time scales.14 The integration of TES systems with renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, allows for the efficient storage of excess energy during periods of high renewable generation and its utilization during times of low generation or high demand.15 Advanced control and monitoring technologies enable better management and optimization of TES operations. This includes real-time monitoring, predictive modeling, and intelligent control algorithms that optimize energy storage and release based on dynamic conditions and demand patterns.16 Hybrid TES systems combine different storage technologies and leverage their strengths to achieve optimal performance in terms of enhanced flexibility, improved efficiency, and expanded operating ranges.17

TES has the potential to address energy challenges faced by communities that need affordable and reliable energy sources. TES can provide affordable, efficient, sustainable, and reliable solutions for heating, cooling, and power generation.18 To fully realize the benefits of TES in a community, it is crucial to encourage community engagement, provide education, and support policies that enable successful implementation. Collaboration between government entities, community organizations, and industry stakeholders can foster innovative approaches and funding mechanisms that address the specific needs and challenges, ultimately leading to improved energy access, affordability, and sustainability.19

The Challenge

This challenge asks student teams to develop an innovative solution for thermal energy storage for buildings to optimize energy utilization, enhance sustainability, and increase resilience. Furthermore, the cost for implementing TES should be affordable or recoverable from the benefits provided by the TES. The solutions could involve (but are not limited to) integration of materials, systems, and controls for the storage and release of energy. Teams should first develop a focused problem statement for a specific stakeholder group and then develop a technical solution or process.

Suggestions for student teams include (but are not limited to) the following: 

  • Create innovative building type and climate specific design strategies and practices aimed at integrating TES in buildings.
  • Develop TES solutions utilizing building materials, structure, and/or building’s heating, cooling or water heating systems, and potentially, recovering waste heat in buildings.
  • Present solutions with advanced controls, or innovative business models, for utilizing TES that can maximize the benefits of TES (e.g., reducing energy cost, shedding electric demand during peak periods, and/or utilizing more available renewable power) with acceptable cost to consumers.

Student submissions should: 

  • Describe the scope and context of the chosen problem.  
  • Identify affected stakeholders, making sure to research stakeholder backgrounds and understand the stakeholders’ needs, especially regarding the problem. 
  • Develop a technical solution to the chosen problem for the targeted stakeholder group. The solution may also include policy and economic solutions, codes and standards, or other aspects critical to identified stakeholder barriers. However, a technical solution must be proposed. 
  • Discuss appropriate and expected impacts and benefits of the proposed solution. This should include an analysis of TES performance, expected benefits (e.g., electricity demand reduction, energy cost savings, and carbon emission reduction), a cost/benefit analysis, and a market adoption analysis. 
  • Discuss limitations and challenges of the proposed solution (e.g., technical, policy-related, code-compliance, etc.).
  • Develop a commercialization plan that describes how the team envisions bringing its idea to scale in the market, outreach mechanisms, stakeholder engagement, and other relevant details.

Downloadable Challenge Description

Additional Challenge Resources

Submission Template


Competing in this challenge is open to student teams currently enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges. See the Terms and Conditions and Rules document for eligibility requirements and rules. Please note that you must begin your Building Technologies Internship Program (BTIP) application before or at the same time as you submit your idea in order to compete in the JUMP competition.

Please submit the following as a single-spaced PDF document that is a written narrative of the team’s proposed solution. PowerPoint decks or submissions in presentation format do not meet the requirement. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. The quality of writing will be considered, so review by peers is strongly encouraged.

  • Project Team Background (up to 2 pages, single-spaced)
    • Form a team of 2‒4 students. These students represent the project team and will all consult on the problem.
    • The Project Team Background should include:
      • Project name, team name, and collegiate institution(s)
      • Team mission statement
      • A short biography for each team member. This should include information such as major, level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate), and other relevant background information such as experience with building science, future career goals, and formative experiences that shaped each individual’s contribution to the Challenge.
      • Diversity statement (minimum 1 paragraph, 5‒7 sentences): One of JUMP into STEM’s key objectives is to encourage diversity of thought and background in students entering the building science industry. There is a diversity gap in STEM, meaning that certain groups are underrepresented or have been historically excluded from STEM fields. These groups include, but are not limited to, those based on race, ethnicity, and gender—and this gap needs to be addressed. Diversity of thought can be achieved through teams consisting of students from different majors and minors. If there are barriers that affect the racial, ethnic, and/or gender breakdown of your team, please elaborate. The diversity statement is your opportunity to describe your team’s diversity of background and thought, both generally and as applicable to your chosen Challenge.
    • The Project Team Background does not count toward the 5-page Project Challenge Submission.
  • Project Challenge Submission (up to 5 pages, single-spaced)
    • Select one of the three Challenges published for the current competition to address.
    • Investigate the background of the Challenge and consider related stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who are affected by the problem, a part of the supply chain, or manufacturing of the technology product(s), as well as those who may have decision-making power and are able to provide solutions (technical or nontechnical solutions, such as policies). For example, you could include stakeholders who have previously experienced environmental pollution or a high energy burden.
    • Write a 1- to 2-paragraph problem statement, focusing on a specific aspect of the problem and the stakeholder groups affected by or involved in the problem. The stakeholder groups can be from a specific location, socioeconomic status, age, or demographic (e.g., people living in subsidized housing).
    • Develop and describe a novel solution that addresses or solves the specific problem from your problem statement. The solution must be technical and also include one or more of the following components, as appropriate: economic, policy, commercialization, codes, standards, and/or other.
    • Address the requirements for your selected Challenge as written in the Challenge description. Include graphs, figures, and/or photos. Discuss the feasibility of your solution and how it will impact your stakeholders,
    • Develop a technology-to-market plan. A technology-to-market plan describes how the team envisions bringing its idea from concept to installation on real buildings, or integrated into the design of real buildings, and includes a cost/benefit analysis.
      • The cost/benefit analysis does not need to be exhaustive and should include comparing the solution to current or existing technologies or practices. Benefits, such as building energy reductions and improved occupant health or productivity, should be evaluated.
      • The plan should also discuss which key stakeholder(s) should be involved to commercialize the technology and then sell and install the technologies with your target market(s).
    • Perform a market adoption barrier The team should identify at least one key market adoption barrier for implementation and specifically address how the proposed solution will overcome that barrier.
      • Barriers should align with key stakeholder(s) identified by the student team.
    • Include references. References will not count toward the 5-page maximum.
  • Appendix (optional, no page limit)
    • Teams may wish to add an appendix. This is optional and might not be reviewed by the judges.
    • The appendix has no page limit.

Evaluation Criteria

Solution (40%)

  • Solution: Please rate the solution and its ability to address the problem statement. The solution must be a technical solution. It should address the stakeholder needs. It must include one or more of the following components, as appropriate: economic, policy, commercialization, codes, standards, or other.
  • Feasibility: Please rate the solution’s overall feasibility. For example, solutions that are not technically possible or that lack a technical feasibility discussion will receive lower scores.
  • Novelty: Please rate the originality and creativity of the solution and how significant the contribution will be to the building industry.
  • Impact: Please rate the overall scalability of the team’s solution. For example, can the solution be extended to communities, similar stakeholder groups, or a nationwide solution?

Market Readiness (30%)

  • Market Characterization: Please rate the team’s description and understanding of the market.
  • Technology-to-Market: Please rate the team’s proposed plan to bring the solution from a paper concept to installation or integration with real buildings or building designs, and the team’s cost/benefit analysis. The cost/benefit analysis may include energy reductions or benefits to occupant health and productivity.
  • Overcoming Adoption Barriers: Please rate the team’s identification of and plan for overcoming at least one key market adoption barrier for the proposed solution. This includes how the solution will create value, both economic and other, to drive industry adoption.

Team Diversity and Understanding Stakeholders (20%)

  • Diversity Statement and Project Team Background: Please rate how well the team addresses the diversity gap in the building science industry in its diversity statement. This includes how the team brings perspectives from a variety of backgrounds, including students from groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This also includes students from many different disciplines ensuring diversity of thought. See the diversity statement in the challenge requirements. This also includes how well the teams connect their mission statement and biographies to their problem statement.
  • Understanding Stakeholders: Please rate how well the team communicates their understanding of the stakeholder group or community and how they are affected by the problem. This rating also includes how well the team defined the problem that needs to be solved by taking into consideration the needs of the stakeholder group or community.

Submission (10%)

  • Submission Requirements: Please rate how well the student team followed all submission requirements. See the submission requirements at the bottom of each challenge description.

How to Create a Successful Submission

We will have two student webinars.

Student Webinar #1

Student Webinar #1

Student Webinar #2

Student webinar #2 will be held in October.

Detailed webinar information will be provided.


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  2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Causes of Climate Change. https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
  3. White, T. 2021. Countering Climate Change with Renewable Energy Technologies.https://fas.org/publication/countering-climate-change-with-renewable-energy-technologies/
  4. International Energy Agency (IEA). Electrification.https://www.iea.org/reports/electrification
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  11. Dincer, I. and M.A. Rosen. 2011. Thermal Energy Storage Systems and Applications, Second Edition. Willey
  12. Morofsky, E. 2005. History of Thermal Storage. In Thermal Energy Storage for Sustainable Energy Consumption: Fundamentals, Case Studies and Design. Edited by H.O. Paksoy. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-1-4020-5290-3.pdf
  13. Chao, J. 2021. Turning Up the Heat: Thermal Energy Storage Could Play Major Role in Decarbonizing Buildings. https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2021/11/18/turning-up-the-heat-thermal-energy-storage-could-play-major-role-in-decarbonizing-buildings/
  14. Khadiran, T., Hussein, M.Z., Zainal, Z., and Rusli, R. 2016. Advanced energy storage materials for building applications and their thermal performance characterization: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 57 (May 2016): 916-928 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.12.081
  15. Elkhatat, A. and Al-Muhtaseb, S. 2023. Combined “Renewable Energy–Thermal Energy Storage (RE–TES)” Systems: A Review. Energies 16(11): 4471. https://doi.org/10.3390/en16114471
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  17. Ding, Z., Wu, W., and Leung, M. 2021. Advanced/hybrid thermal energy storage technology: material, cycle, system and perspective. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (July 2021): 111088. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2021.111088
  18. McNamara, W., Passell, H., Montes, M., Jeffers, R., and Gyuk, I. 2022. Seeking energy equity through energy storage. The Electricity Journal 35(1):107063. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tej.2021.107063
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