Project Name: Non-Contact Thermophysical Characterization of Solids and Fluids for Concentrating Solar Power
Funding Opportunity: Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar Power
Location: La Jolla, CA
SETO Award Amount: $1,180,000
Awardee Cost Share:  $137,000
Principal Investigator: Renkun Chen

This project will develop a non-contact thermal-analysis technique and device to monitor the thermophysical properties and corrosion behaviors of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) plants. The device will measure the thermal conductivity and heat capacity of heat-transfer materials, including molten salts and falling particles, as well as solar receiver tubes and solar-absorbent coatings for CSP systems. The technique will characterize new materials and enable the development of a low-cost, easy-to-operate device for laboratory testing and, potentially, field testing. This applied research and development project on support testing for Gen3 CSP systems is in response to Topic 2B of this funding program.


The team will develop a lab-scale modulated photothermal radiometry system to characterize the materials used in CSP plants. This non-contact measurement device will use a modulated laser that heats up the surface of the solar receiver tube, and a high-speed infrared detector will record any resulting thermal radiation. Changing the laser’s frequency and intensity by pulsing it and turning it on and off will allow the team to analyze the thermophysical properties of a CSP system’s containment wall and the fluid behind it separately. Pulsing the laser will enable the measurement of thermal conductivity at different depths.


This project will provide a precise, non-contact, easy-to-operate tool for fast characterization of the thermophysical properties of various new materials in CSP systems, like heat-transfer tubes and coatings. This technique will enable field monitoring of various heat-transfer materials in pilot CSP plants, particularly heat-transfer behaviors and material stability, to maintain and improve efficiency. This tool will be used to rapidly validate CSP system design and be used in Topic 1 projects in this funding program.