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Project Name: Particle Heat Transfer Mechanisms
Funding Opportunity: Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems Lab Call
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power
Location: Albuquerque, NM
SETO Award Amount: $455,000
Awardee Cost Share:  N/A

In concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, sunlight heats a material—solid particles, a liquid, or gas—that transfers heat from the receiver to generate power. This material is fed into a heat exchanger that moves the energy to a working fluid, such as supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2). This project will measure the heat-transfer properties of densely packed solid particles to see how much heat from the sun they can absorb and how well they can transfer it. The results will enable improved designs for CSP plants that use sCO2 cycles, which are more efficient than traditional steam turbines and lead to lower electricity costs.


The project team will use computer modeling to design an apparatus, with two cylindrical walls surrounding a ring of particles that can accurately measure the heat-transfer properties of particles being considered for use in the receiver. The team will examine how details like grain size and roughness affect particle performance. The results will be made available and sent to other CSP research teams so that they can be incorporated into new plant designs.


Measuring particles’ thermal properties will help plant designers more accurately estimate how much heat can be moved through the particle flow. This will inform the creation of new tools to optimize heat flow and allow engineers to build heat exchangers less conservatively, preventing unnecessary costs for thicker materials. This project will generate data on specific types of particles used in Gen3 CSP designs, which can be integrated with modeling tools used to design and evaluate particle heat exchangers.