Project Name: Robust High-Temperature Heat Exchangers
Funding Opportunity: Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar Power
Location: West Lafayette, IN
SETO Award Amount: $1,960,745
Awardee Cost Share:  $499,945
Principal Investigator: Kenneth H. Sandhage

This project will develop compact heat exchangers made of ceramic-metal composites for concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) plants. These heat exchangers will be able to operate at higher temperatures and pressures than metal-alloy-based, printed-circuit heat exchangers. By enabling reliable, effective heat transfer from solar-heated molten salt to a high-pressure working fluid like supercritical carbon dioxide, turbines can operate at very high temperatures and generate electricity at lower cost. The team will demonstrate the robust thermomechanical performance of the ceramic-metal composites and identify protocols to cost-effectively manufacture the heat exchangers. Under Topic 2a of this funding program, this project will conduct component-level design and testing that may be integrated into Topic 1 projects focusing on system design.   


The team will fabricate printed-circuit-like ceramic-metal-composite heat exchangers consisting of bonded stacks of thin, channeled plates. A reaction process will preserve the plates’ shape and size. These composites will be stronger at 800o Celsius than structural metal alloys, possess higher thermal conductivity at 800oC than metal alloys, and demonstrate resistance to high heat and corrosion by molten salts and supercritical carbon dioxide-based fluids. The team will develop protocols to allow for the large-scale fabrication of these heat exchangers and develop a techno-economic model for the cost of manufacturing and a plan for commercialization.


A novel ceramic-metal composite for high-temperature performance will be created via a unique, scalable, low-cost manufacturing process. The new heat exchangers will enable turbines to operate with high-pressure working fluids at higher temperatures than are currently possible for metal-alloy-based heat exchangers. This will significantly enhance the efficiency of converting solar thermal energy into electricity and result in a lower cost of electricity from CSP plants.